Monday, September 10, 2007

New Beginning 359

Jen balanced atop a small ladder, standing directly on a label that read, “NOT A STEP.” Knowing Jen, she’d taken the warning as a challenge. I stood in the doorway and watched her for a moment without announcing my presence. In one hand Jen held a styrofoam cup filled with black paint and in the other a well-used artist’s paintbrush. She leaned in close to the wall, painting the bangs on a mural of Bettie Page, the famous pin-up girl. Once completed, the mural would cover the entire back wall of our little vintage clothing shop. My gaze shifted from Bettie back to Jen, and I marveled at how Jen somehow managed to look every bit as sexy as Bettie, even without the benefit of a leopard-skin bikini and a whip. In fact, Jen’s outfit was nothing special--just old jeans and a paint-smeared tank top. If I were to wear the same thing I would look like Bertha the lesbian plumber, but Jen looked radiant.

I know what you’re thinking. You're thinking this is about to segue into a long, pointless, self-absorbed naval-gazing extravaganza wherein I reference all kinds of pop culture trash (like Bettie, whom I adore, BTW) and you smile and nod knowingly at the ones you recognize and ignore the ones you don't. You're thinking I'm going to pontificate about clothes and shoes and men and sex and why can't we all have perfect skin and flawless bodies and interesting lives. You're thinking this entire scenario—the daring and gorgeous Jen painting an equally gorgeous image on a wall in a store designed to make women feel gorgeous—is just the setup for a story with some asinine moral lesson, like true beauty comes from within. But most of all, you're wondering what I'm doing in this vintage clothing shop with its Bettie Page mural when I'm a guy and usually shop at Wal-Mart.

Opening: Lightsmith.....Continuation: Khazar-khum/blogless_troll


Evil Editor said...

Unchosen continuations:

I do -- I'd go with the pot roast, myself. You know, you could at least pretend to be paying attention.


“Bring me the car, would you?” Jen shifted her position and the ladder rocked as she spoke.

“Sure.” I went into the storeroom through a metal door labelled “NOT AN EXIT.” We’d bought a scale model of a BMW convertible. Jen thought it would look cool parked up behind Bettie. I went back into the shop.

“Just hold it up... Yes, like that.” I was holding the car up like an offering, so she could sketch the lines. There was a big sticker underneath warning “THIS IS NOT A TOY.”

Just as Jen had the outline all done, the bell over the door tinkled and a young man walk in. His face was flushed and his movements awkward. He wandered around the racks pretending to checkout the jeans and leather jackets, taking furtive glances at Jen as she worked. Third time this week; we knew what he was thinking.

I rested my hands on Jen’s butt to balance her. She recharged her brush and wrote in big letters on the wall “NOT A CHANCE.”

In this world, nothing is as it first seems.


I mean, Jen is cute and everything, but I have to be careful with what I wear. I prefer plaid shirts and painters pants, so when I'm working I guess I really do look like Bertha the lesbian plumber.

"Bertha, what do you think?"

Jen pointed to the mural with her brush, but I couldn't take my eyes off her.

"Uh, nice," I muttered, trying to get the the sink faucets hooked up.

--Kate Thornton

Then you know I was wondering if the whole novel would be one paragraph. I'm sorry to insinuate myself into your novel, but I was thinking (as you know) that Mary Pickford was a lot hotter and would definitely dress up your shop better than Bettie Page. Oh! What was I thinking? (You should have told me.) Hedy Lamarr. You've got to get Hedy Lamarr on your wall. She really knew how to wear a dress, believe me. Now . . . back to you, uh, I don't think you introduced yourself.

--Bill Highsmith

I need to find a better plumber-one who looks like sexy Jen.
You would be wrong.
My transformation from Bobby to Bertha to Bettie has taken more than two years. Now with Jen balancing atop a wobbly ladder painting my portrait for the world to see, I'm ready to tell my story: Bettie's Pages

--Church Lady

My name is Bertha, and I am a lesbian, just not a plumber. I'm not handy with a pipe wrench at all, and the only tool I'm comfortable using requires batteries.


Evil Editor said...

Well-written. I would make this at least two paragraphs, starting one at "My Gaze..." (You could start another after either the 2nd or 3rd sentence.}

If Jen is painting the back wall, and the narrator is in the doorway, I wouldn't expect her to call Jen "radiant." That's usually applied to a person's face, which would be turned away. As would the front of Jen's tank top, the most likely side to have paint smears.

matt said...

I like this, it's well written and has an ease to it that feels natural.

Nothing else to add, but I would read on.

Robin S. said...

Hi lightsmith,

This is a good intro to Jen's character. I can just about feel her leaning in when you write -
"In one hand Jen held a styrofoam cup filled with black paint and in the other a well-used artist’s paintbrush. She leaned in close to the wall.."

And it's a good intro into the thinking of the narrator.

I don't know where it's going- but I'd read on to find out.

My favorite two continuations were the chosen one, and Sarah's- the battery operated tool was a good one.

Lightsmith said...

Holy Crap. I was expected to get moiderized by EE for what I think is an extremely weak opening that I was crazy for submitting in the first place. Thank you, EE.

Also, EE, for the record, sorry for acting like such a jackass yesterday. It won't happen again. :-)

After BuffySquirrel mentioned the book Affinity by Sarah Waters, I checked it out of the library, and this is the first line: "I was never so frightened as I am now." That's a kick-ass first line. It really makes me want to read on. My seemingly pointless description/blathering does not provoke that same reaction.

The Old Openings that EE provided links to were also very helpful. I'll definitely be using those as inspiration in the future. Thanks.

wonderwood said...

I like the opening, agree it might have a better pace if broken up into two or three paragraphs. I'm too brain dead at this point of the day to offer any specific comments, sorry. Overall thumbs up.

Kudos to Khazar and Blogless on the continuation, laughed my ass off. All of them were good, and I needed a good laugh. Thanks!

Lightsmith said...

Y'know, as a writer, I should really be better at expressing myself. Let me clarify what I meant when I said my opening was "extremely weak." I think the writing would've been fine if it had been positioned further into a story; it just didn't work as an opening. It wasn't good storytelling.

Also, I wasn't criticizing the opinions of anyone who did say they liked the opening. Far from it. I really appreciate it, in fact, and would happily listen to people compliment my writing 24 hours a day. ;-)

EE's observations were very astute. Not surprisingly.

The continuations were very funny. Thank you.

Dave said...

There is a market out there for women's lit with all women characters and lesbian relations. It's been there for a couple decades.

McKoala said...

I think this is fine; OK it's not that exciting, but the writing is good and I'd give it a chance.

Church Lady said...

I echo what McKoala said. I liked the writing, and would keep reading to see where it was going.
I'm hoping to see some interaction/dialogue soon.

Best of luck!

Anonymous said...

I like this as an opening. It doesn't reach out and grab you but it does ease you into the story. Both methods work to pull you in to the story and keep you reading.

I get a real sense of being there and that's very important.

I really like a lot of what I see on this site from you, Lightsmith. I like your writing style.


AmyB said...

I love the first line. The rest is scene-setting stuff, not entirely my cup of tea, but it's funny and well-written, so I'd keep reading.

~Nancy said...

I really like this. I, too, would break it up into a couple of paragraphs, instead of it being dumped into one.



writtenwyrdd said...

I also liked this opening and wanted to see it made into more paragraphs. It gets one interested in what is going on. However, if you aren't going to give us some sort of reward for the tension (an 'a ha' of sorts) it will be disappointing.

I can understand how you feel this is not a good opening since you wrote it; but do heed the approval in the comments and hang onto thsi one for a while longer.