So I’m rewriting chapter one of my novel, Red Star Sheriff, and I’m curious, which opener do you think works better? The original? Or the rework? I’m trying to be more descriptive but I’m curious if a shorter, more into it sequence is preferable versus the more visually descriptive work. If you have an opinion, please share it below! I’m looking for all the advice I can get!
SHE STOOD PARALYZED, a hand wrapped tightly around her throat and her face pressed firmly against the cold, grainy surface of a building wall. A hungry chuckle and foul breath caressed her neck and ears. She closed her eyes and felt her skirt sliding up her thighs. A small sound tried to escape her throat as she gritted her teeth.
“Now stop yer whimperin. You and I both know how much yer gonna enjoy this.”
She pursed her lips together and tried to stifle her sobs and braced herself for the inevitable violation of her body. What she didn’t expect was a splash of wetness across her right cheek and a gurgling gasp. She found herself spun around and saw a woman in a long trenchcoat holding a blade in her right hand covered in blood. And at her feet was the shuddering form of her tormentor holding his throat gasping his last breaths. She lifted her eyes to her rescuer but, before she could utter a word, heard the man’s two companions coming down the alley.
“Hey, Gil. How long you gonna take ta- Oh, shit!”
In a flash, the blade dropped from the woman’s hand only to be instantly replaced by a vicious looking pistol. Two shots rang out and the first man’s eye and chest exploded. A split second later the woman was twisting behind her and had another pistol in her left hand. Two more shots rang out before the second companion could draw his arm. Both shots pierced his heart before the first man had even hit the ground.
“Wh…uh…” she stuttered as the woman reached out and grabbed her shoulder.
“No time to dawdle. Git up those stairs and find somewhere to hole up,” the woman said pressing her forward. “Don’ come out til the shootin’s done stopped.”
She rushed up the alleyway stairs to the waiting door and only once there glanced back to see the woman heading towards the alley entrance, her coat whipping in the wind like the fury of hell. A volley of shots rang out and she darted inside, hesitating no longer.
AND NOW THE REVISED RENDITION OF THAT FIRST SEQUENCE
SHE STOOD THERE paralyzed. The hand around her throat pressing her face into the dirty, gritty wall of brick and mud tightened its grip and pushed harder. She tried to stifle the sob desperate to unleash itself and braced for the inevitable violation of her body. She felt a grimy hand, calloused and not the least bit gentle, crawling up her thigh as her dress (satin smooth and clean and just the right shade of baby blue with white frills along the neck and sleeve ends) slid up towards her waist. Her eyes clenched tighter and the sobbing started breaking through.
Oh please don’t rip my dress! Whatever you do to me, don’t damage it! It’s all I got left of my momma!
A foul breath, thick with garlic and whiskey, caressed her neck and face as an unkempt head drew close to her ears, “Now quit yer whimperin’, my little peach. You and I both know how much yer gonna enjoy this!”
She felt his hand reach up and grab her undergarments and yank them down so hard she heard the rip. Any moment, he was going to thrust himself inside of her and she wasn’t certain she could maintain control of her faculties. She was on the verge of screaming when a wet stream hit her face and doused her hair. A gurgled plea uttered forth as she felt his grip give and his body collapse to the ground with a dull, ravenous thud.
Lilybell opened her eyes and spun around, her blood soaked platinum blonde locks trying to cling to her face like a wet and terrified cat. Her bonnet fell to the back of her neck in the motion but remained affixed to her neck by its ties. Her hands went to her chest as she took in what had happened. Her attacker lay on his back on the ground, his throat slit, his body convulsing, his chest sucking in its last breaths as the gurgling protests slowly ceased. She was disgusted at him. Disgusted by everything about him and all his kind. His clothing was every shade of brown from his dirty, ragged shit covered shirt to his twitching ochre boots. Even his hair was a matted mass of chestnut hair. She hated him. Hated his grizzled tanned visage and corrupted black heart.
With effort, Lilybell looked up to her erstwhile hero and saw a woman not quite as tall as she. Deep red skin, flowing raven black hair, and wielding an impossibly large knife serrated on one side and dripping with her assailant’s lifewater. The woman was holding the blade outward, not quite horizontal, but in a manner that suggested if the dying (or even dead) fool deigned to rearise, she was going to drive it deep into his gut and twist. The woman’s dark red duster hung there shuddering slightly under a brief gust of wind and she wore an ancient hat of like minded red. The shadow it cast hid her eyes well, but not so well Lilybell couldn’t see those black eyes that were fierce, focused, and narrow. Those eyes competed for dominance with facial features that should have been weather worn (her lips showed signs of cracking, and her cheeks had vertical lines that said plenty about the life she had already led) as her look said this was a woman who’d seen death and chaos aplenty in the young years that were her bastion of fire. And yet, her skin was so smooth, so revealing of her age that were this woman to return home and not say another word, no one would be the wiser that she’d killed a man and not even thought twice about it. It terrified and thrilled Lilybell staring into that woman’s face, a face that was firm of jaw and sported a hard demeanor.
Lilybell opened her mouth to say something, anything to this woman, thank you perhaps, when they heard the deadman’s friends coming down the alleyway from the main streets.
“Hey, Gil, how long ya gonna take ta- Oh, shit!”
The two men went for their guns and Lilybell thought that she and this savior of hers were both likely dead as could be. But in the time it took Lilybell to form a cross on her chest, and those two villainous henchmen to draw their weapons, the woman had dropped her heavy blade, (a blade which fell in those same moments straight down to pierce the groin of the dead man, and he didn’t seem to mind because, apparently, he wasn’t using them anymore), pulled both of her even more enormous pistols (weapons that sported some sort of strange lights along their sides and hilts), and fired two shots (with bullets that must have been forged in the fires of Hell itself!) that tore through those men like they were wet paper.
The first man’s head erupted in an explosion of brains, skin, skull, and teeth (his body hitting the ground like a sack of potatoes and blood draining like a dam had broken). While nearly at the same instant the second man received a shot to the chest which displayed that same sort of wanton destruction delivered to his buddy. The only difference being this one went flying backwards into the muddy brick wall and gave a fresh painting of blood red and shades of rib and viscera. His arms decided to try and escape back down the alley. They didn’t get very far.
“Maybe too much…” the woman said to herself thumbing something on the sides of those lethal widowers.
Lilybell should have fainted, she thought. Yet the gore, the violence…the Justice of it almost made her feel joy. She was about to thank that woman and sing her praises when the woman in red grabbed her by the shoulder and shoved her towards a flight of stairs that somewhere in the back of Lilybell’s head she knew as leading into the backroom of the general store.
“You git on up in there an’ don’ come out ‘til the shootin’s done stopped!” the woman railed in her ear.
Lilybell tried say, Thank you! Thank you! Thank you, you beautiful woman! You saved my life! But all that came out was heavy breathing and jolted grunting as she was pushed forward. Lilybell found herself racing up the stairs and free of the woman’s hand. Once at the top, she stopped and looked back towards the alley. It was full of blood and body parts and the carnage of war. And there was the woman.
She was no longer looking at Lilybell but rather focused on drawing her excaliburs and racing down the alley towards the main street where the deadman, Gil’s, friends had come sauntering towards them, expecting a beaten and savaged little Bessie, and found instance death awaiting instead. The woman’s duster trailed behind her beating out a funeral dirge for those unlucky or stupid enough to be caught in her crosshairs.
Thank you! She thought out to the woman in red. And then the shooting started back up and Lilybell turned and fled inside.
Alright, what do you think? Let me know below. My novel is approaching the two thirds written mark (rough draft) and I’ll be getting into edits by summer. Is the rework more intriguing? Were there parts of the original you thought worked better? Do the parenthesis remarks fit well? How do you feel the characters are portrayed in the brief moments you have?
Thanks for reading!