Friday, May 25, 2007

New Beginning 282

Everyone who can fix my life is in this phone book. The pages are buttermilk yellow and written in code. But I know the code and all I have to do is punch in seven digits listed in the ads and instantly I’m connected with people who can help, professionals in home improvement and remodeling, mold mildew and moisture control, traumatic stress counseling, laser surgery, and welding. It’s so easy it almost seems like a miracle, and if not a miracle, at least some sort of high-octane grace. Exterminator. That’s who I was looking for when I came across Escort Services. Abalienes Escorts—For an evening of indulgence. Beautiful ladies within an hour. Always selective hiring. We gladly accept all major credit cards. The ad was an inch high and bounded by a thin ruled line. Nothing ostentatious or hungry and it could have just as well been an ad for legal advice, artificial fingernails, or midwives, even though there were only two listings for midwives and neither ad was as attractive as Abalienes. There were only two other listings for escort services, and both were nothing more than 800 numbers for long distance companionship. Actually, I was surprised to find any escort listings in a town as small as Waynesville. After all, everyone knows everyone or knows someone who knows you and most folks are related somewhere down the tree, so it would be a difficult date to keep discreet. But I was half tempted to call anyway, even though carpenter ants were eating through the beam in my basement.

Then I thought, Why not? and dialed.

Forty minutes later, a sultry blonde rang my doorbell. "Good evening, Martin." She gazed up at me through lowered lashes as I led her into the living room.

Something about her made me pause, hand on her elbow. "Don't I know you from some place?"

She laughed. "This is Waynesville, love. Everyone knows everyone. Don't you recognize me?" She adjusted the neckline of her dress. "I'm Wilbur's little sister -- I was two years behind you in school."


She laughed again, a provocative, throaty chuckle.

"So, um, how is Wilbur these days?"

"I'm guessing you didn't bring me here to talk about Wilbur," she murmured, stroking my cheek. She settled onto the couch, crossing her legs in a way that got my full attention.

With a loud creak, the living room floor gave way, dumping the couch into the basement amid a pile of rubble.

With a sigh, I picked up the phone to make the call I should have made in the first place.

"Best Pest Control, Wilbur speaking."

Crap. How was I going to explain this?

Opening: AB.....Continuation: foggidawn


Beth said...

Hahaha. :) Wonderful continuation.

As to the opening--there's nothing wrong with the writing, but it doesn't seem to be going anywhere. In fact, it reads more like the opening of a column on how to get the most out of the yellow pages than it does a novel.

Now, nothing wrong with that, per se--it's obviously all part of the character's voice. As a reader, I'm willing to go along with it up to a point, but I think that point needs to be arrived at much sooner. In short, this rambles, spending too much time on inconsequential description. It needs pruning and focusing.

AmyB said...

Great continuation!

My immediate impression of the opening was too many words, not enough concept. We really don't need all that stuff about the phone book. I know it's meant to establish voice, but it comes across as rambling. If you cut it down to about half that length, I think it would work better.

My other concern is the narrator calling the escort service for no particular reason. I'd rather see the reason be something character- or plot-related than just, "Why not?"

Anonymous said...

I thought the first few sentences of this opening were really terrific -- eccentric and original. I'm hoping there was supposed to be a paragraph break before "Exterminator" -- if not, I recommend one.

Then I started to lose a little hope at the mention of Escort Services -- I've seen a lot of stories about hookers -- but it could still go somewhere interesting, and the writing is still good, so I keep reading.

But once I got to the small town stuff, I tuned out. Small towns where everyone knows everyone's name are such a cliche, it doesn't do justice to the snappy, off-kilter opening. If you must introduce the setting here, I think it's enough to say "small town" and move on. You're reader will implicitly understand the awkwardness of calling a hooker in a small town, you don't need to spell it out.

I sincerely hope that the phone book "written in code" isn't the last idiosynchratic touch in this book.

Anonymous said...

This continuation is so funny!!

phoenix said...

Love, love the continuation!

This has nice voice. But my first impression of the narrator is that it's female. Sexist, I know, and I'm usually pretty open-minded about that kind of thing. But there you have it. I re-read it a couple of times with the 95% sure knowledge the narrator is male, and I still couldn't get it to sound male in my (female) head. Maybe the guy minions can comment better on this aspect.

I'm going to attribute the single paragraph and grammar glitches to blogger's mis-interpretation of the input. I think, broken up, this paragraph wouldn't feel so long-winded.

The only minor logic nit I have is that the narrator doesn't know there's such a service in that small town where everyone knows everyone, and he's concerned about discretion. But he hasn't gotten wind of any indiscretions, and the business has been around long enough to get into the phone book. His obliviousness just doesn't ring true.

takoda said...

Hi, The continuation was terrific! Very clever!

Author, You have a great first few lines. We immediately know that something in this person's life needs to be fixed. And then there's the phonebook--like he's all alone, but also surrounded by thousands. That's a nice read. But you go into the phone-book-ease way too much. The Big Punch of your language becomes diluted into a myriad of small, meaningless jabs. Drastically prune.

I want more about why he needs his life fixed.

I lost interest with the small town talk. And do small towns have escort services? The one I grew up in didn't!

Overall, it's a great way to open a story.


Robin S. said...

I like your first line being "Everyone who can fix my life is in this phone book", an dI like the idea behind it. Really like some of your phrases, such as "...if not a miracle, at least some sort of high-octane grace".

I think this would be better broken up a little, with paragraphs.

If the reasoning behind an escort service in a small town is coming quickly, it could work - but - half of my family tree hails from a town with a population of 5,000, and there's no way this would work there. Maybe there's something different in this instance that makes it work- is that it?

I think this is well-written, but needs a little trim here and there. I'm interested.

The continuation was really well done.

whitemouse said...

I agree with Beth's comments pretty closely. The writing and the voice are fine, but the piece rambles.

Is the main character going to call the escort agency? If so, then cut the small town chatter and get to it. If not, then both the small town chatter and the whitterings about escorts should be cut.

What hooks a reader into this piece is the good writing and the promise of quirkiness. What kicks the reader out again is the realisation that the paragraph is going nowhere.

I would put the book down and walk away, based on what's here. However, with some sharp editing, this might become something that would keep me turning pages. Your writing does show promise.

Dave said...

If you intend to have your character ramble on like this, then the ramblings have to be a little more demented. Whoever the character is, man or woman or even zombie, he/she/it has to pop out of these words.

And when you open with the line - "everyone who can fix my life" we need a problem or conflict, or disaster, some plot twist revelation in a hurry.

You especially can't end with the carpenter ants. No one cares about the carpenter ants unless their sentient aliens bent on eating the rain forests.

Also, E for escorts and exterminators is ok, but why is he/she it looking at Midwifes. It's an awfully small ear pages if those words are on adjacent pages.

Rei said...

When I read that the phone book was in "code", I was really excited about having an unreliable narrator. What a better way to announce psychosis without shoving it in our face than a narrator who believes that the phone book has hidden messages encoded in all of the numbers and letters? I was hoping for "A Beautiful Mind", or perhaps some Poe. It would have been captivating.

Instead, by "code", the narrator seems to mean the ordinary meaning -- "look in the right section". I was so let down by this.

Beth said...

I have to add to my earlier comments--I really like the first line. I immediately wondered what was wrong with his life and who he was going to call to fix it. If you can follow that inviting path instead of getting us tangled up in descriptive shrubbery, you'd have a winner.

Wonderwood said...

I like the opening. It goes on a bit, but I didn't mind, I found the voice pleasant and was willing to keep going with it. Yes, it needs to get somewhere pretty soon, but for that short piece it was fine. I like the voice.

The continuation was brilliant. Great job Foggidawn!

Er, ah, Amyb, the "why not" was part of the continuation, not the opening. Sudden plot changes are part of the funny.

Anonymous said...

I'm a midwife and we don't have to have attractive ads. If you have to make it obvious you got it, then you don't. Subtley is for the real beauties!

Interesting that you mention the world's TWO oldest professions!

Kidding aside, I enjoyed the voice and would read more.

AmyB said...

Oops, that's what comes of clicking that 'Show Original Post' link where I can't see the color change, and writing my comment from there. Still, "I was half tempted to call anyway" means essentially the same thing.

McKoala said...

It's a bit of a slow start for my taste; and seems purposeless. Also, is this all one para in the original - it's kind of long? Individually the sentences are fine; with nice variations in length etc., so I think maybe it's just a case of a bit less of a good thing.

Great continuation!

~Nancy said...

Great continuation; funny as all get out.

Author, sorry to say, but that looooong paragraph made my eyes glaze over. The first two or three sentences were fine (kind of funny, too; is the speaker here an alien of some sort, that he thinks the phone book is written in a special "code"?). Anyway, I'd at least put this into separate paragraphs - maybe start a new one at "Exterminator."

I do agree this seems to go on a little long. I think after his eyes see the escort service listing that he gets to the action and calls them. The rest just seems like a ramble to me; I think most people have an idea as to what an escort service is.

Or maybe you can have the speaker about to call for the pest service when he eyes the escort service? Just an idea. I do feel this needs to be pruned quite a bit (but please don't lose the eccentric, quirky flavoring; that I like quite a bit).

Good luck!