Saturday, May 19, 2007

New Beginning 278

When I was a little girl, I held my breath when we drove past cemeteries. Dad always said that the ghosts of the dead would get into my lungs, take me over, and drag me back to their graves. By the time I was seven, I understood it was just his ghoulish game, a sly trick for keeping my two raucous brothers quiet, at least for a few seconds. Now, nearing forty, I stood outside the front door of John Muir Medical Center, and I felt again that powerful need to hold my breath.

Through the years, luck had kept me away from hospitals. Other mothers became emergency room regulars, rushing in for ear infections, broken arms, even whooping cough. I came only for deaths and births. Amber had been to the hospital just once since she was born—Nathan brought her because I was stuck in a meeting—and by the time I saw her she was already convalescing at Baskin Robbins.

My feet were rooted to the spot. My eyes pointed at, but failed to focus on, the sign indicating the way to the emergency room. But my mind was elsewhere. It's funny how things all come together, random events coalescing into unexpected thoughts. With my now-grown daughter in emergency surgery, my thoughts were on that long-ago morning in Baskin Robbins.

It could have been the effect of the cold ice cream on her sensitive stomach. It could have been my attempt to cheer her up with my cemetery story. All I know is, if Amber hadn't puked up the oreos and milk she'd had for breakfast, the Baskin Robbins sign would still say "30 Flavors."

Opening:.....Continuation: Anonymous


Dave said...

I hope this is going somewhere soon. I like the writing. I like the story about the "breath holding" but being told twice that she's apprehensive about being at the hospital is enough.

I think that only one of the first two paragraphs should survive the edit. You don't need both.

AmyB said...

Wow, this opening is very nice. I can't nitpick it at all. It's smooth and engaging, and provides great characterization in just a couple of paragraphs.

whoever said...

I liked the first paragraph with the sadistic father, and the last sentence made it feel like the current action was about to begin...but then the second paragraph kept right on reminiscing.

Plus, that second paragraph was not only in the past, what was being remembered was boring, unlike the first paragraph.

I'd say keep the beginning but then get to the present and show us the action at that Medical Centre.

ello said...

Great opening! I really liked this because it sucked me in and I really want to read more now. In fact, for this one, I didn't even bother reading the continuation because I didn't want it to impact my read of the opening.

Great job.

Bernita said...

Begins with an excellent anecdote, but I agree with Dave and Whoever.

M.W. said...

Excellent opening. I disagree with Dave. This is clearly going somewhere and both paragraphs build the tension for the third paragraph where I imagine the protaganist enters the hospital and the story takes off. Good job.

Robin S. said...

I like this. It reads really well. I'd keep both paragraphs.

McKoala said...

I'm with the trim group. Loved the first para; got impatient with the second - ready for something to happen. Well written all over, though.

takoda said...

I really loved this. I'm in the trim group. The second paragraph takes us out of the immediacy of the moment. You end the first paragraph with someone holding her breath. We need something after that. Not the flashback. Very well written. I'll say again that I loved this!


P.S. Did anyone else notice that KY is grossly underdressed for that farewell shot? Not even a fancy hat. Or a bow-tie. If Miss Snark can afford stilettos, she can afford to get KY some fashion accoutrements. Poor dog.

Do you think that will coax a response from Miss Snark? Hmm? Hmm?

GutterBall said...

Count me in the trim group. I love the first paragraph. Meh on the second. It's not bad; it just doesn't do what the first paragraph set us up for.

Beth said...

Great first paragraph! You really had me at the last line. I found myself holding my own breath. But in the second paragraph, all that wonderful energy and sense of anticipation went splat. Get your character in motion. Leave the backstory about her kids until later.

Kanani said...

There's lots to like here. I like the way you're trying to meld the past in with the present. The little cemetery anecdote is funky and interesting, and where she is right not denotes some drama. (Not conflict, but drama).

A few little mechanical things.

First of all, read this aloud.
There are so many commas I'm gasping. It slows your pace. The reason I bring this up is that this is probably prevalent throughout the novel.

Trim down your sentences, vary the lengths, figure out what can be combined to come out with a zinger first sentence that rolls.

"When I was a little girl." Hmmmmm....
Not sure that really catches my eye. But what does is the bit about cemeteries. Work with it.

Don't give the reader of histories in the hospital. Put the progtagonist in there. Have her walk in, see things, hear things, interact with the admissions clerk, the doctor the nurses.... something to show she's in the scene and not floating back to the past.

Keep going. You're a strong writer, capable of knocking strong sentences and action.

The Author said...

You're a strong writer, capable of knocking strong sentences and action.

Wow, you can tell that from two paragraphs?

Thank you all for the kind words, feedback, and encouragement. I see that the overwhelming sentiment is for cutting the 2nd paragraph, and after rereading it with that in mind I quite agree. The main character does indeed step into the hospital right after the current 2nd paragraph and begin her Very Bad Awful Horrible No-Good Day (no, not for the reason you're thinking). It is important to me at this point to introduce the daughter (Amber) and husband (Nathan) in some way, but the current 2nd paragraph is too much. I will rework, and I thank you all for the comments!

Side note to ello: While I appreciate your sentiment, you missed an excellent continuation that made me say "eeeww" at the end.

Kanani said...


I was making a wild stab. If you want, discount it.