A “troupe of players” for #WIPpet Wednesday, and a progress report

Since getting back from Spain, I continue to make steady progress on my fiction again. On the weekend, I finished a short story, and promptly turned around and got back into A Wasted Land. My word count since last Wednesday comes to 3700 words, a lot more than I’ve managed in new fiction in a long time! I think I will soon go back and revise some of my goals for the quarter. 🙂

BTW, this will be my 300th post on this blog! 😀

On to the true business of the day — WIPpet Wednesday! For today’s date, I simply added 5 + 2 + 1, and am giving you 8 paragraphs from A Wasted Land. This scene comes shortly after the last one. Kustennin and Taliesin are now entering Venta as a troupe of traveling minstrels:

When Kustennin and his troupe of “players” had been let through the gates, the city began to feel more foreign after all. It might look like a British city built by the Romans, but on any number of street corners, it sounded Saxon. In addition to the familiar lilt of British and Latin, the guttural sounds of Germanic tongues could be heard just as often — a jumble of British and Saxon dialects.
Within the city walls, buildings were springing up in every available space, including on the cobblestones of former roads, in the lee of thick Roman walls. At the same time, room had also been made for pens for animals, buildings that had fallen into disrepair cannibalized for stone fences.
As they made their way through the streets, Kustennin began to notice little things that added to his sense of foreignness. Many of the women wore veils over their hair, held in place by circlets or pins. Veils were a rare sight in British towns, except at weddings and funerals. Whenever he saw one of the unusual conical shaped helmets of the Saxon warriors, often decorated with the figure of an animal on top, it was hard for him to maintain his peaceful facade as a member of a troupe of traveling players.
Taliesin laid a hand on his arm. “I suggest you concentrate on the women’s perfume,” he murmured softly so that only Kustennin could hear. “You never know when you will come across someone whose perceptions are more pronounced than those of most.”
Kustennin nodded, and tried to erect a wall in his mind as his mother and Taliesin had taught him. Concentrating on the smells around him proved to be a very effective method. Not only perfumes and soap and sweat; also the smell of a hearty stew from a nearby tavern, a herd of goats in a cleared field next to the street, a peat fire not far away to ward of the first chill of autumn in the air. The street where they walked was in good repair, and the hooves of horses clopped on the cobblestones. Kustennin’s legs were sore from the long walk from where they had left their horses; he wasn’t used to traveling on foot such distances, and very different muscles were needed for walking compared to riding.
Taliesin nudged his elbow. “We are nearing the forum, my friend. I hope you remember your role.”
“Dance and drum.”
The bard chuckled. “Good enough! And if you can bring yourself to sing, I would be delighted.”

King Arthur's Round Table in Winchester (Venta), Wikipedia
King Arthur’s Round Table in Winchester, formerly Venta Belgarum

WIPpet Wednesday is the brain child of K. L. Schwengel. If you’d like to participate, post an excerpt from your WIP on your blog, something that relates to the date in some way. Then add your link here — where you can also read the other excerpts.

33 thoughts on “A “troupe of players” for #WIPpet Wednesday, and a progress report”

  1. Lovely scene Ruth. I love the thoughts you describe going round Kustennin’s head. The descriptions of his surroundings are lovely too. BTW I grew up near Winchester, I went to uni there and I’ve seen the table many times. Great to see a photo of it, I now live in Bristol over 100 miles away, so it’s nice to see a familiar picture. 🙂

    1. A friend of mine lives in Worthing, one of the Villa Diodati folks. I might well be in the area again this summer, since he’s getting married. 🙂

      Glad you liked the snippet!

  2. Oh, how interesting. The sensations are great, but I had more fun with the history. It made me want to look up the pre-Saxon language and the Saxon and compare them side by side to see if I could “hear” the differences. 🙂

    1. Actually, Kustennin and his buddies speak ancient British, a Celtic language, ancestor of Cornish and Welsh, while the Saxon language is Germanic, ancestor of Old English. So yes, differences to be heard. 🙂

      1. Ahhh… I remembered something like that, but I also think of the term British as being post-Saxon, so I thought maybe I was mixing something up. Refresh my memory further, if you don’t mind, this is taking place after Beowulf was written, or before? (And I do mean written, not just told.)

      2. This is taking place a couple of years after the battle of Camlann, post-Roman, post Arthur, but while the British still held most of the island of Britain. According to my interpretation of the few sources we have, around the second decade of the sixth century. So still before Beowulf, if I’m remembering right. 🙂

      3. I just noticed I forgot to mention one other thing. Regrading Great Britain, the terms Britain and British are older than English and England, which come from one of the Germanic tribes that began to settle there in the fourth century, the Angles, along with the Saxons and the Jutes. The Roman name for the island was Britannia, which was itself probably based on a Celtic place name. Thus, the British language in Britain was established there much longer than the Saxon.

      4. 😀 Cool. I’ll get it all straight after a few more passes through the kids’ history program. (We have an amazing program that covers more world history in 2nd grade than I learned in all of high school.)

  3. Some wonderful worldbuilding, here. The focus on the senses is just marvelous – it really makes everything come alive in a way that other types of descriptions don’t.

    Congrats on the increase in fictioneering! I’m making some progress myself – sure feels good!

  4. That dropped me right into the scene very nicely. I love the sensory details. Having Taliesin suggest to Kustennin to focus on something like perfume was a great way to take us into it as well.

  5. I never would have guessed you have a problem writing intricate and visceral worlds, Ruth. Everything I’ve read of yours has always felt so rich and full. And, as always, this scene is delightful. The way you gave us a sense of movement, of time passing, of feeling and thought… and concern. Lovely.

    Congrats on the 300th.

  6. A fine update and I, too, liked the artifice of Taliesin asking Kustinnen to focus on smells which the reader then doubly appreciated, that rich medley that brought the setting to life! And I also appreciated how you simply stated that the hard work at the scene level results in stronger writing. And so we persevere! All the best for another great week.

    1. Thanks, Beth! Yeah, unfortunately I’m not one of these writers who sees everything unfolding before her eyes and just has to write it all down. My first drafts seems to be all about puzzling out the character and plot arcs and then going back and filling in the details. 🙂

      1. That’s me, too. I used to write all my scenes in a limbo, with the people just interacting…they didn’t move much, either!

        But I do believe we can get better. I’m figuring out these days which details are most relevant to the character and the action (my non-human characters don’t sense the way we do, or interpret in the same way).

        I’d love to do it naturally more often than I do, but, when I look at where I’ve come from, I’m happy with where I am.

        The attention to smell, and the widening out from the perfume, were perfect for drawing me in. Scent evokes imagery very well! =)

      2. I *know* we can get better, Shan! It hall has to do with recognizing your weaknesses and working on them, I think.

        Before I went to Clarion West, I was kinda skeptical as to whether writing could be taught, but I was so much better after those six weeks, I could see so much more in my own writing, that I came out a believer. Those kinds of opportunities are rare, though, so usually we just have to work on ourselves, or find fellow writers who can provide honest critiques. 🙂

  7. Love the descriptions here, I can really see it all in my mind. Especially the part about the old buildings becoming stables, basically.

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