Sunday, April 29, 2007

New Beginning 270

130...150...170...180 kilometres. Helen gripped the smooth leather steering wheel as the powerful car responded to the pressure of her extended toes. The speedometer needle edged close to the luminous red danger zone. Her stomach twitched with a sick thrill. Maybe if she drove faster she’d blow the engine. Or have an accident. Then he’d be sorry.

“Bastardo. Vacca Cane.” she muttered. It was far more satisfying to swear in Italian.

Helen Gill (neé Bertolini) eased off on the pedal and flexed her foot. The gleaming red Porsche slowed to 130. No point in melodrama. Her mother would provide enough of that. There was still an hour of driving to Papá. She’d better save the car for the divorce settlement.

Divorce. Peter’s early morning announcement stuck and repeated in her head like a cheap CD. Or a badly cooked lasagne, churning her stomach.

He’d pulled his top lip down over his teeth, checking his reflection in the bathroom mirror as he trimmed nose hairs. “We have to talk Helen. I’m in love with someone else,” Peter grimaced.

Helen stopped mid brush, her battery operated toothbrush hummed on like a doll’s miniature vibrator. “What? What are you . . . ?” Helen trailed off into silence as she watched Peter check his nostrils one last time. He smiled, happy with the results.

She'd had an insane urge to shove the toothbrush up one of those flaring nostrils, but resisted the idea. No, not the toothbrush. Papá has something much better.

With a grim smile, she urged the car faster, visualizing Papá's pneumatic drill invading Peter's nasal cavity until the 12-inch-long bit emerged from the back of his meticulously coiffed head. I'll help you get rid of those nose hairs, darling, she thought.

Opening: Anonymous.....Continuation: Chumplet


writtenwyrdd said...

Just a suggestion. Use Helena instead of Helen, if she is Italian.

While reading this, I found the pace bogged down by the constant barrage of adjectives. Example in the second sentence: "Helen gripped the smooth leather steering wheel as the powerful car responded to the pressure of her extended toes."

I think that if this is really the beginning, and not the scene where she's asked for the divorce, then you begin with the 3rd paragraph.

I laughed at the highly unromantic imagery in the divorce scene. One can easily imagine how this couple ended up in divorce given your choice of details. Loved that. He’d pulled his top lip down over his teeth, checking his reflection in the bathroom mirror as he trimmed nose hairs. “We have to talk Helen. I’m in love with someone else." I think you should delete "Peter grimaced," it's distracting.

"like a doll’s miniature vibrator." This rang false to me. It didn't fit what was going on.

With "Papá has something much better." you are being too vague. Give us something specific that directs our anticipation. You know, a bit of foreshadowing.

I did like this, but it feels like it's flailing about, drowinging in possibilities. Focus on what you want the readers to take away from this opening and revise to highlight that.

Nice voice, too.

writtenwyrdd said...

I just realized that "papa has something much better" was the continuation. Chumplet fooled me! :)

Evil Editor said...

If you don't start with the 3rd paragraph, you could start with the third sentence. The first sentence, to nitpick, is wrong, as the needle shows speed, not distance. Drop the word speedometer in the third sentence, and we're drawn in, wondering what kind of danger zone we're nearing.

I don't like using two different metaphors (CD, lasagna) for the same thing. It sounds like you couldn't decide which one you liked better, so used both. I'd drop repeated in her head like lasagna in her stomach.

The final metaphor fails because people are more familiar with the hum of an electric toothbrush than the hum of a doll’s miniature vibrator. The comparison should make it more clear.

BuffySquirrel said...

I also felt there were too many adjectives (although "gripped" isn't an adjective, writtenwyrdd, what are you on?). There's also at least one run-on sentence. Mainly, though, this was all over the place. Focus, focus :).

Dave said...

130, 150 and 180 kph aren't that fast as speed goes in cars these days. Routine traffic on the highway around here travels above 70/75 mph and that is already 125 kph. 200 kph is 120 mph and I did that in a tiny Mazda RX2 back in 1974. There are stock cars that break 300 kph (180 mph) on highways.

Now distance is a different matter. I didn't read the opening numbers as distance. I think EE has a good solution, drop a sentence or two. My thought is don't use the numbers. Let the reader imagine the speed and red danger zone. erDon't think that's bad advice. Alfred Hitchhock said to let the viewer or reader imagine the horror. They do a good job at it and it's so much more scary to them. Whenever I see a blood and gore splatter movie, I think back to how horrific Hitchhock really was without the benefit of color or blood or nudity.

BTW would there be a taupe danger zone, or a cerise danger zone, or a cerulean blue danger zone? how about lime green?

And usually when an annoying tune gets stuck in my head, it's only a tune (most likely a flute conerto by Vivaldi or something like the soundtrack of MARS ATTACKS... I buy bargain-basement classical CDs because I already own 350 or so and I have no shelf space left.

McKoala said...

I agree on the adjectives. They made my head spin. Am I alone in not liking the announcement of her full name, plus pre-marital name? Loved the detail of the nose trimming; beautifully mundane at this critical moment.

If I say I liked EE's suggestions it's going to sound like sucking up, but I did.

Oooh, Chumplet. You've got a mean streak!

whitemouse said...

I thought this was a poor place to start the story. She's driving a car. Yay.

The whole scene is a glorified excuse to dump backstory on the reader. Why not start with the fight, rather than reminiscences of the fight? Or start with the ugly conversation Helen has with her parents?

Don't start while she's in limbo. This isn't where your story begins.

takoda said...

I liked your voice a lot, but agreed that there were too many adjectives.

And I got stuck on these two sentences (although I absolutely loved this scene!):

“We have to talk Helen. I’m in love with someone else,”

That happened too fast for me. Perhaps he says the first sentence, there's more grooming going on, and she gets to do something that illustrates her mood and personality. And I don't know, but does it happen that somebody just comes out and asks for divorce just like that? Haven't been there (yet!) but it just sounded false.

Anyway, I really liked this piece, and chumplet's continuation.


sylvia said...

I felt you were trying to hard to make absolutely sure that we understood that she was Italian. It was pretty clear from the first hint (and I counted 5) and I daresay it doesn't matter if a slow reader doesn't realise it for a few more pages.

I'd drop the "neé Bertolini" and the lasagna reference.

carina said...

Great comments everybody. Thank you for reading it. And Chumplet...I love your continuation!

I especially appreciate the advice to drop the numbers and the opening paragraph. I played around with it so much, with the typical writer's problem of becoming too attached to my words. With the slashing it reads much better.

Thanks Evil Editor for your geat advice on the metaphors, I'll work on those.

Writtenwyrdd, your comments on adjectives, pace etc were all helpful. Glad you like the voice.

writtenwyrdd said...

I wasn't on anything buffy, I hit the enter key when I wanted to preview to proofread. Thus, even more dumb typos than usual. I was hoping no one would mention that particular one, too, lol, cuz it's SO dumb.

Anonymous said...

I'm in general agreement with much of what has been said already, esp. the early bombardment of adjectives. Unless you're aiming for an OTT sentence in which the absurdity of the adjectives is your friend, you're better off choosing the best one - in this case, her 'extended' toes rather than spurious details about the car interior (unless she runs Peter down with it in Chapter 2).

Your best place to start, judging by the speedometer negatives and nasal positives so far, is the bathroom shenanigannery - complete with 'duelling banjoes' interplay between the various clippers, trimmers, buffers and preeners.

Whatever path you go down, be prepared to choose. EE is upfront about your indecision and he's right.

Oh - and a doll's miniature vibrator would be very very small indeed.

Bernita said...

Yes, way too many adjectives, including her prehensile toes.
You might consider beginning with "Bastardo" rather than numbers.
Why would he be sorry about her having an accident, given the character you've sketched so(very) well a little later?
I rather liked the "nee Bertolini" and didn't find it excessive.

Chumplet said...

I credit EE with the last sentence. I wish I'd thought of it myself, but there ya go...

I agree with the others about the cutting and that guy really does deserve a drill bit up the nose. You did a fabulous job of making me hate him.

blogless_troll said...

A scratched CD may skip or go blurblblurplurbleblurble, but it doesn't repeat. A cheap CD usually just plays unsellable music.

Also agree about the lasagna, but I see what you're trying to do with it. But bad food stays with you rather than repeats. I think most people have had pleasant experiences with lasagna, so if you're going to keep the food metaphor, you should use something less appetizing, like granelli, which is veal testicles.

Also, you switched POV in the last sentence.

Twill said...

I disagree about the "POV change". There are lots of different kinds of smiles that a person can observe, and "Happy with the results" is one of them. Reading that doesn't bother anyone but an over-trained writer. Just keep the reader oriented.

The "nee Berteloni" did annoy me, especially with the first name of Helen. This could have stayed better within her POV if she had thought about taking back her maiden name, a natural subject given her current preoccupation.