Jul 14, 2009

Sample Pages - Quest Support (First Revision)

Well, I'm back. I've done some tweaking to the first chapter of Quest Support, and I think it's improved somewhat. The first chapter is only 6 pages, so I've posted the whole thing. Thanks!

Quest Support
Chapter One: In Which, Appropriately Enough, the Story Begins

The magic mirror rang again. Gilbert adjusted his headset and pressed the “talk” button on the mirror’s frame. His reflection dissolved into an image of a bleak landscape.

“Thank you for calling Quest Support,” said Gilbert. “My name is Gilbert. How can I help you?”

A young man clad in silver armor stood in a torrential rain and glowered at him. “Why isn’t my magic sword working?” he said.

“Could you be more specific?”

“I just told you, it's not working.” The caller tossed his head, long blond hair trailing out behind him.

“Yes, but what's it supposed to do?”

“How should I know?” said the caller. “The Elves who gave it to me said I would know what to do with it at the proper time. Well, we’re attacking the Dark Lord’s tower tight now, and the sword hasn't done anything. It must be broken.” A flash of lightning gleamed off his armor, immaculate save for an artistically-placed dent on the breastplate.

“I'll decide that,” said Gilbert, already taking a dislike to this caller. “Hold it up to the Quest Orb so I can see it.”

“Quest Orb?”

Gilbert sighed. “The round purple crystal you’re talking into right now. Hold the sword in front of it so I can see it.” Moron, he added to himself.

The man drew a gaudy sword with a shining blade and a gold crosspiece.

That's an actual sword?
Gilbert thought. It looks like it should be hanging on some rich guy’s wall. “Let me look that up,” he told the caller.

Sword, silver blade with leaf pattern, gold grip that looks like dragon head with ruby eyes, Gilbert wrote on a piece of parchment on his desk. The words vanished, and Please wait appeared in their place as an enchantment searched Quest Support’s catalog of known magical artifacts. With a muffled thump, a stack of eight or ten pages appeared on the desk. 1 match found, the first page read, Legendary Sword Darkbane.

Gilbert groaned. “Okay, I’m going to have to put you on hold for a minute.”

“What? How dare you?”

“Look, you’ve got a Legendary Sword here. I’m going to have to wade through a few dozen pages of cryptic prophecy and shabby verse before I can figure out how the thing works.”

“But that’s….”

Gilbert punched the “Hold” button on the mirror frame. Caller on Hold, the mirror announced as he began flipping through the heap of parchment on his desk. “Let’s see,” he muttered to himself.

“Forged by elves in the fires of…not important. Some prophecy that’s already been fulfilled…bad poetry…more bad poetry…come on, that doesn’t even rhyme…ha!” He’d found something that could be useful. He skipped the text at the start of the paragraph, which was usually irrelevant, and went straight to the end. In dark of night, when all seems lost, Darkbane shall light, to burn the dross, Gilbert read. Why did the people who wrote this junk always fancy themselves bards? The verse concluded, The might of its flame shall fell the Dark, and save the land from fate most stark.

“Okay,” Gilbert said, taking the mirror off of hold. “I've got something.”

“About time!” said the caller.

“Let me ask you a question,” said Gilbert. “Has all hope been lost yet?”

“Well, no. Our army is taking a beating, but we haven't given up yet.”

“Well, there you go—the sword will only work when all hope has been lost.”

The client frowned. “Are you sure of this, boy?”

“Of course I’m sure!” Gilbert snapped. “This is good old Magical Weapon 74: the Deus Ex Machina on a stick.” He’d seen this type of sword at least four times this year.

“What are you babbling about, boy?”

“All I’m saying is…”

Phwoomph! Suddenly the sword Darkbane ignited with a flickering blue glow. “Ha!” cried the caller. “It’s working! I knew it all along! The Dark Lord will fall before me!”

“Suuuure you did.”

“I have no more time for idle talk, boy!” sneered the caller. “Destiny awaits!”

“Fine,” said Gilbert. “Goodbye. Jerk.” Gilbert pressed the “End” button on the mirror, and the caller’s image vanished. He disentangled his headset from his unkempt straw-colored hair and laid it on his desk. He’d been taking calls for the last eight hours, and the thing had been digging into his scalp something fierce.

“I need coffee,” Gilbert muttered. He wasn’t scheduled for a break until quitting time, but no one would notice his absence if he was quick. Gilbert shut off his mirror with another button press and stepped out of his cubicle. He made his way to the coffee machine at the other end of the cavernous call center, snatches of dozens of mirror calls flitting past his ears as he walked.

“…hold the wand firmly in your right hand and recite this incantation…”

“…how many kobolds are we talking about here?”

“…off-hand I’d say it’s probably poisoned, but let me check…”

Gilbert had poured himself a cup of coffee and was heading back toward his cubicle when someone called his name. “Gilbert! Hey, Gilbert!” He turned and looked down at the goblin who had grabbed hold of his belt. The green, bat-eared creature only came up to his belly button, and he stared up at him with imploring yellow eyes.

So much for being quick. “What now, uh….,”

“My name’s Knarf! I’ve worked here since last week, remember?”

“Oh, right, the guy who got his foot stuck in the snack machine.”

“Yeah! That was so embarrassing! So, I’m kind of having trouble with a call, and I thought maybe you could help. You’re a smart guy.”

“Knarf, I’m….”

“You’re not supposed to be on break, Gilbert!” boomed a thunderous voice from somewhere over his head. He looked up and found his way blocked by a scaly wall of red dragon.

“I’m…uh…helping Knarf with a call, Mr. Bloodscales,” said Gilbert.

Knarf’s nodded. “Yeah, Gilbert’s helping me with a call!”

The dragon Bloodscales rattled his wings and blew a puff of smoke out his nostrils. “Very well. But I want you back at your desk as soon as you’re finished. Understand?”

“Of course, Mr. Bloodscales.”

The division manager stormed off to bother some other employee. “Oh boy!” said Knarf.

“Thanks, Gilbert!”

“Don’t mention it,” Gilbert grunted.

He followed Knarf into his cubicle where the mirror showed a surly orc holding a withered branch in one hand. “He’s having problems with his Staff of Flame,” Knarf explained. “It’s shooting water instead of fire. I put him on hold so I could try to look up how to fix it, but I can’t find anything.”

Gilbert squinted at the mirror. “Is it shooting clear water or muddy water?”

“It’s pretty muddy.”

“Yeah, these staffs have this problem all the time. I’ve already taken two calls about it today.”

“What should I do?”

“Just call the Repairs department and they’ll send someone out with a replacement.”

“Okay! Mirror, get me the Repairs department.”

A droopy little man appeared in the mirror. “Hi, you’ve reached Frank in Repairs,” he wheezed. There was a pause while he fished a handkerchief out of his pocket and blew his nose. “I’m out sick right now, but if you’ll leave a message our backup enchanter will get to your request as soon as possible.”

“Huh,” said Gilbert. “I didn’t know we had a backup enchanter. Wonder who that could be?”

“Hi!” Knarf said to the mirror. “Groghclaw the orc has a Staff of Fire that’s shooting water. Could you please send someone out to help him as soon as you can?” He turned to Gilbert. “Boy, do I feel dumb. I just spent a half-hour trying to get that thing to work. Guess I’m just not thinking straight – it’s been a long day.”

“Tell me about it.” Gilbert took a swig of coffee. “Things should quiet down soon enough, though. By this time tomorrow, the Dark Lord will be defeated.”

“Oh, that’s good. And there won’t be so many calls any more?”

“Nope. Not until the next Dark Lord arises.” Gilbert glanced down the hall. “I’d love to stay and chat, but I should get back to my desk. I don’t want to get yelled at again.”

Gilbert made it back to his cubicle without attracting Bloodscales’ attention. As he turned his mirror on, he glanced at the stack of parchment that still sat on the desk. Directly below the part he’d read to the caller was another bit of verse he’d missed.

But strike forthwith, without delay,
it read, for Darkbane’s power will not long stay.

thought Gilbert. Maybe I should call the guy back. The mirror rang again, and he jammed his headset back on. Never mind, I don’t have time now. He’ll be fine.


Rick Daley said...

I'll come back and give some advice on line edits. In general, I really like the voice of this, I laughed out loud several times. It does for fantasy what Shrek did for fairy tales and what Toy Story did for toys. You have a lot of very clever ideas.

Unknown said...

This was really good. I liked it, it made me laugh and kept me reading. Good job.

I'll let Rick do your line edits haha, I'm not too great at them myself. But I like your style!

Lori Folkman said...

I didn't think I had time to read this, but I'm glad I did. Loved it! Great voice, great ideas, great imagery.

Very nit-picky things: I stopped at the unkempt straw-colored hair. Even though its only two adjectives, it seems to descriptive, possibly because everything else is rather concise.

There were a few dialog tags that might need to be added. Just a few times I had to look back to the other paragraph just to make sure I knew who was talking.

Excellent, excellent job. Would love to read the whole thing!

Hayley E. Lavik said...

I really love this premise and I love the slightly offhand tone of the narration. My critique would be that there's not a lot of tension going on here. There's the tension of what's about to go wrong, but I only know that from your query.

If someone came in blind, they'd just see a guy in a ho-hum job (albeit a very unique one) having a usual day. Some small, everyday tension to keep things going might be a nice addition to the beginning, as though he's already having a bad enough day, and we brace ourselves suspecting it will get worse.

Also since, to my understanding, 'the story begins' once his hero falls and he has to go take care of things himself, I don't actually think the story quite begins in this chapter. The stuff with Knarf made me a little restless to get back to what I knew was coming, so I think if you shortened or cut that, you'd have room to get into the promised conflict right away. That's the sort of thing I'd like to see, at least.

J.B. Chicoine said...

I think this is a clever bit of imagination with a lively voice. It was very easy to get into, in a genre I don’t normally read. I would only suggest that stating his name twice is redundant in this part: “Thank you for calling Quest Support,” said Gilbert. “My name is Gilbert…”

Unknown said...

I may still tweak this a bit more, but I'm a lot happier with this than with my first version. I'll consider trimming the part with Knarf, but it's got some stuff that's important later.
Good comments everyone, as always. I'm going to work on the start of Chapter 2 also, and maybe then I'll get back into the query grind.

Rick Daley said...

Here are some line edits.

[] means delete something
{} means add something
() is just a comment

“Thank you for calling Quest Support,[” said Gilbert. “M]{m}y name is Gilbert. How can I help you?”

A young man clad in silver armor stood in a torrential rain and glowered at him. “Why isn’t my magic sword working?” he {demanded}[said].

“How should I know?” (the caller asked) [said the caller].

I’m going to have to wade through a few dozen pages (he’s just stalling for the caller, right? There were only 8-10 pages)

“You’re not supposed to be on break, Gilbert!” [boomed a thunderous voice]{A thunderous voice boomed} from somewhere over his head

He looked up and found his way blocked by a scaly wall of red dragon. (His way was up?)

Knarf[’s] nodded.

[The dragon](you already told us Bloodscales is a dragon, you don't need both descriptors here) Bloodscales rattled his wings and blew a puff of smoke out {of} his nostrils.

The division manager (here you may want to replace division manager with dragon…you haven’t specified his title previously) stormed off to bother some other employee.

“Oh boy!” said Knarf. [Delete line break and include following dialogue in this paragraph, since it’s the same speaker] “Thanks, Gilbert!” (General note: there are a lot of exclamation marks in Knarf’s dialogue.)

A droopy little man appeared in the mirror. (Suggestion: you are telling us he’s droopy and little, I know double-adjectives are often frowned upon. Consider showing us by only seeing the top of his head or having him climb up a step ladder)

L. T. Host said...

I'd read this! When is it coming out? :)

Some notes: as a cold read, without the benefit of your query, this held me. The tension of him maybe getting in trouble with his boss got me through til the chapter end, when you foreshadow that things will start to go wrong. I liked the every-day feel of this whole first part as it shows your world very well. Sort of an Artemus Fowl/ Shrek approach, and I absolutely adored those books. Like I said before, I would read this, based on these pages. Line edits I agree with, though I know there are a lot of different opinions about dialog tags, in so far as "screamed" "shrieked" "demanded" vs. "said" goes, but that's up to you in the long run.

L. T. Host said...

Whoops-- I know Shrek wasn't a book (to begin with). I meant I loved the Artemus Fowl books.

Rick Daley said...

There's a lot of debate over the descriptive use of dialogue tags. I recommended "demanded" because, based on the other descriptions of the character, I think that word fits. Ask would would fine as an alternative.

To add other descriptors, such as "he demanded, raising his voice" or "he demanded gruffly" takes it a step too far.

I like that much of the dialogue doesn't have any tags, and it flows well without losing coherency.