Saturday, February 02, 2008

New Beginning 442


Jack was born in a barn because his mother ate a Twinkie. He was a Lepidopterist by trade and a farmer by necessity, but he dreamed of hitting the big-time someday and building himself a beautiful house on a beach somewhere. His legal name was actually “Twinkie Jack Thompson”, but he had few occasions to use it as he had only one or two actual legal documents where the name was printed out and he always introduced himself as “Jack Thompson”. Moonpie Runningbare, Jack’s mom, had given birth and raised and educated Jack in the barn; the two lived in harmony for eighteen years, living off the land and with minor interaction with the local community. Moonpie was 1/64 Chippewa Indian and knew the old ways of living a rich and meaningful life: she also had a knack for capturing rare butterflies which proved to be quite profitable, in the right circles.

It was a tradition handed down through the generations, to name the child after the last thing the mother tasted before going into labor. In the old days, this led to names like Buffalo, Wild Boar and Cactus Leaf; modern diet, of course, led to the birth of Moonpie and Twinkie. This was as natural as breathing to Jack's family, and he was never teased by his sister, General Tso's Chicken, or his brother, Dick.


Opening: ME.....Continuation: ril

29 comments:

Evil Editor said...

Unchosen Continuations:


Unfortunately she could not keep the secrets of the butterflies forever. Some local teenagers discovered their psychidelic qualities when dried over a fire of rare grasses and powdered with rare Chippewa pharmaceutical tools. By that summer, 14 and 15-year old pushers were breeding the damn things. Their wages plummeting, Moonpie and Twinkie moved out of the barn into a half-finished dugout.

"This place doesn't smell right." Jack said. "We have to do something about this."

His mother flung aside the wet sticks with which she had been trying to start a fire. "From henceforth, let no one call me Moonpie" she announced. "My name shall be Cowpie, for the gods have dealt like crap with me."

Jack grunted and began packing all his worldly belongings into a hand-woven sack. Last of all he put in the bundle he used for a pillow. It was a raggedy Chippewa hand-me-down, at least 400 years old, as Jack like to complain in his few communicative moments.

His mother turn back again. "Oh, and one more thing" she said. "As long as we're doing this, let's just take the 'bare' off the end of my last name."

Jack and his mother said goodbye and he set off to make his fortune.

--AR


"Thank you, Robert," said Miss Kincade. That was very nice."

"But you haven't even heard the part where they find the bag of--"

"Thank you, Robert," she repeated.

Defeated, he slumped in his chair. Why didn't anyone ever want to hear about Grandma?

--Khazar-khum


Jack was born in a barn because his mother ate a Twinkie. [Not a HoHo or a . . . Moonpie?] [Hey, did you know that ellipses at the end of sentences are handled differently than ellipses following the beginning of sentences or linking two thoughts together? An ellipsis at the end of a sentence follows a period, so it looks like a four-period ellipsis, rather than the usual three. Had I known that last week . . . ] He was a Lepidopterist by trade and a farmer by necessity, but he dreamed of hitting the big-time someday and building himself a beautiful house on a beach somewhere. [So his nonfiction book The Lepidopterist's Guide to Interacting with Butterflies for Dummies was not a bestseller.] His legal name was actually “Twinkie Jack Thompson”, but he had few occasions to use it as he had only one or two actual legal documents where the name was printed out and he always introduced himself as “Jack Thompson”. [With a nickname like 'Twinkie,' it's too bad he was never in the mob. But then, I guess as a lepidopterist, he wouldn't last long in the mob. On the other hand, it make make a good shortcut to him 'making the big-time' and provide an actual plot for your story.] Moonpie Runningbare, Jack’s mom, [I have an idea. Let's name all the characters after a junk food. Throw in a post-op transexual brother and name him 'Little Debbie.' Also, for comic relief, maybe throw in a down-on-his-luck hustler named 'Oreo.' Or maybe a sailor named 'Chips Ahoy.'] had given birth and raised and educated Jack in the barn [I hoped they lived in a temperate climate]; the two lived in harmony for eighteen years [(her homegrown pot helped a lot)], living off the land and with minor [little?] interaction with the local community. [With names like Twinkie and Moonpie, I imagine the locals kept their distance.] Moonpie was 1/64 Chippewa Indian and knew the old ways of living a rich and meaningful life: [;] she also had a knack for capturing rare butterflies which proved to be quite profitable, in the right circles. [Obviously, 'Twinkie' Jack inherited this talent. Hence, no affiliation with the mob.]

Notes:

Okay, long on description, short on plot. I think you should seriously consider the idea of throwing in some characters named after junk food. This would unify your plot, give you a strong marketing ploy, and subversively make people hungry. Also, you should send your query letter to any major junk food makers in the hopes that they will fund your advance.

-- freddie, Queen of Ellipses


* * *

"You're right, of course." John shifted uneasily in his seat. "When you boil it all down to that, well, it does sound a bit silly."

"Glad you can see that. We've put up with it for a while, Mr. Irving, but for your next book, we were hoping for something a bit more--"

"I know exactly what you mean. How about if I call him Mr. Goodbar Jack Thompson?"

"Now we're talking! Let's go with it. Here's another suitcase of cash."

--anon.


Back before Jack was born, his mom lived in a big house in a middle-class neighborhood outside of Boston. Her husband, Jack's father, worked in finance and drove a big Mercedes, though Jack had never ridden in a Mercedes. It was Jack's dad who told Moonpie Runningbare she should move out and go live in a barn. Jack's dad did that because he had seen Moonpie eating Raoul the poolboy's Twinkie. Jack was sure he would never let a girl eat his Twinkie.

--anon.

Evil Editor said...

It would appear ME has decided to write a story or novel inspired by the fake plot she chose in last week's fake query exercise.

There are enough oddities here to compensate for the fact that nothing is happening, but this information could just as easily be placed a bit later if the story were to begin with an interesting event rather than biography.

I'd start a new paragraph at "Moonpie Runningbare..."

Sarah said...

This is a lot of very interesting information, but no action, as EE said.

The first line actually put me off. It was a wtf? type of line, but it was so far out there that I wanted to say "whatevs" and move on.

Maybe I read it wrong, but it didn't make enough sense to capture my attention in a good way. But it did capture my attention. So I'm thinking keeping it is good, but maybe written a bit differently so it seems more plausible.

Interesting beginning. Mix in some action and I think you've got a real winner here.

Anonymous said...

author of the original Twinkie Thompson GTP here.

Here's the deal with the name: it works in the GTP because a] you've never heard it before so it seems "fresh and original" b] it indicates the tone of the narrative is light and comical, perhaps even silly c] it uses everything readers know about "twinkies" and the people who eat them to conjure an image of who Mr. Thompson is, what he's all about, and how he will cope with challenges. It seems perfectly fitting that a character named Twinkie Thompson would brainlessly trade his magic beans for a zombie cow in a hapless scheme to woo the babe because no one takes Twinkies seriously: they are 100% fluff. This silly plot fulfills readerly expectations created by the MC's name. If you want to write a heart wrenching drama about serious matters, Twinkie Thompson would be a very bad choice of names for the MC.

A name like Twinkie Thompson should never ever ever be explained to the reader or be made the focus of the narrative. The things that make it work only function as subtext. Like the punch line of a joke, a character's name either magically adds spark and wit to your story or it does not. Explanation will kill that magic.

This beginning is writerly homework. Yes, if you're going to write a whole story you need to figure out who your Twinkie Thompson is and give him a history. But that's homework, not story.

Dave F. said...

I knew a fellow in college who's name on his birth certificate was "Willie Roy" -- spelled just like that. And another fellow's first name was Wilfred. So "Twinkie Jack" is perfectly understandable.

I agree with EE. Start with:
Moonpie Runningbare gave birth and raised her son Jack in a barn.

Then you can say something like:
Moonpie always insisted that Jack arrived early thanks to a box of labor-inducing twinkies, eaten and enjoyed a few hours before. Hence the name on his birth certificate, Twinkie Jack Thompson.

Rough, but that's the idea.
After those two sentence you need to say something about Jack's involvement in your story. Like Jack gets to solve a murder mystery. Jack marries the town shrew. Twinkie Jack meets Harriet the hardass developer and wants to build a bypass through his barn. Love ensues, or at least male ennui. With a name like that, Jack's got to be a sweet guy with a sugary disposition.

Wait to reveal that he's a Lepidopterist. Wait to reveal that his mother was 1/64 Chippewa. You already have one weird thing going on, Use that weird thing for a few paragraphs and then after you reveal the plot, you can return to add the Twinkie Jack's traditional weirdness.

It's a rule of weirdness - too much weirdness is OK. Just a little bit of weirdness is OK. Some people call it satire, but we all know that satire died with disco in the 80's... Small doses is good. Like a small dose of (never mind that thought).
When weirdness gets out of hand, and believe me, it does get out of hand, weirdness turns into things like South Park and national politics.

Consider that the third sentence might be:
Twinkie Jack inherited his mother's penchant for butterflies and it was his education as a lepidopterist and his familiarity with twinkies, that helped him solve the Murders in the Rue Morgue (or the mystery of Jack the Ripper, or the first alien invasion of Earth.

BuffySquirrel said...

Presumably Dave finds the name Wilfred amusing, but it's an Old English name with a respectable pedigree.

This opening feels lacking in a sense of time. We start with the character's birth, then zip through the intervening years to him being established in his profession, then we're back to the birth again with the birth certificate, and then we're zipping off ahead again by eighteen years. Makes my head swirl!

150 said...

I don't think I've laughed so hard at a continuation in weeks. What that says about me, I don't know.

Dave F. said...

Can somebody punctuate that sentence for me? I just re-read it and got the giggles.
;)
Twinkie Jack inherited his mother's penchant for butterflies. It was his Doctorate in lepidoptery and his familiarity with twinkies that helped him (solve the Murders in the Rue Morgue or the mystery of Jack the Ripper, or the first alien invasion of Earth).
;)
Love and Kisses,
Zaphod

ME said...

Thanks all!! Yes, EE, I took a flight of fancy based on all the action that I packed into the query and decided I could inject a creamy filling into the shell of the story that I imagined when I hopped on this "homework" assignment. I went another thousand words into it, and my hubby kept saying, "Is this supposed to be science fiction?"
I certainly could start with the action-filled scene where Jack is jabbing a pitchfork into the side of a red-eyed zombie cow!!! BTW, this (as I envision it) is actually a love story; Jack finds a chick in Stalkland that is way hotter than Maryanne.

A year ago I treated most of the stuff I wrote as though it were fine damask linen, heirloom cloth that accented the beauty of my tablescape. Now I set the table much more frequently, but I use paper placemats!

McKoala said...

I really like the backstory and the first line is stunning, but, alas, it is backstory.

If you started with that first line and told that story, but not as backstory, then maybe?

Anonymous said...

Finding a better girlfriend in Stalkland is a great idea for a fun story. Similar to Neil Gaiman's Stardust plot in some ways, but different enough so you can make it your own.

writtenwyrdd said...

This has a really engaging voice, but the opening paragraph is all backstory. Maybe look at your beginning and see if it has anything to grab the reader. Not that you can't open more slowly; I'd certainly have read on a bit further!

There is a problem for me in that first sentence because its meaning isn't clear. First, you have the implication that the Twinkie eating is connected to the birth literally, and then you don't explain. (And you also have the possible connection with birth in stables that anyone with an imagination might jump to...) However, I really liked the line!!!!

And EE, would you say that the technically correct "use four periods instead of 3 for an ellipsis at the end of a sentence" is still true? Because I have not seen the ellipsis written that way in years.

Evil Editor said...

I use three periods, with a space between the last word and the first period. I don't know what's right, but I find that more pleasing to the eye. I also prefer periods and spaces between them to the ellipses you can create with macros in word processing, as those tend to get scrunched up too much. Of course with periods, you have to be careful you don't eb=nd up with part of the ellipsis on one line and the rest on the next.

Robin S. said...

Hi me,

I like what you've written here, although I agree it may not be the opening. But it's fun and breezy.

I agree with McK - the first line is a good one.

I can't say I agree that name explanations aren't sometimes an amusing and useful part of story. An easy one to remember is the origin of the name T.S. Garp. I found that anecdote highly entertaining, personally, although you rbackground might be better off woven into narrative story, as Garp's was, rather than popped in the beginning.

Anyway, good stuff!

And that continuation just coming in from the ether like that, overnight, was an amazing and magical feat. And a good one.
How about that?

Xenith said...

Oh dear. Jack Thompson w/a/s/ is a well known actor who t/u/r/n/s/ /u/p/ /i/n/ /e/v/e/r/y/ /m/o/v/i/e/ /s/h/o/t/ /i/n/ /A/u/s/t/r/a/l/i/a/used to appear in all the popular movies and he still pops up from time to time /i/n/ /m/a/j/o/r/ /r/o/l/e/s/ /l/i/k/e/ /D/a/r/t/h/ /V/a/d/a/r/'/s/ /s/t/e/p/-/f/a/t/h/e/r/. This has put the most weird images in my head, and they shall be stuck there all day now.

freddie said...

wryttenwyrd, my caveat should have been that I work in educational publishing

BTW ,this post may have been full of typos because I have to type everything in backwards.

Anonymous said...

(Typing from a different computer now. . . .)

And what I mean by saying that I work in educational publishing is that the client publishers are sticklers about certain rules (I work mostly for comp houses.)

I didn't know that little tidbit about ellipses until this week. Maybe that's because I haven't seen it done that way, either, or assumed whatever manuscript or page I was looking at just contained typos.

For some reason, it fascinated me.

- freddie

Phoenix said...

Ooh, ooh. Ellipses! I LOVE ellipses! Almost as much as I love sentence frags.

All the stodgy university and corporate style guides will say to put a period then the ellipsis at the end of a sentence. But that's for professional and technical pubs and school papers with lots of cited stuff. And in those cases, the ellipsis indicates something's been left out of a cited quote or example.

In the world of fiction, most of the time an ellipsis at the end of a sentence indicates a thought that trails off. So the ellipsis doesn't really mean something's been skipped. And often the sentence isn't a complete sentence anyway.

Formal vs. informal writing style.

In my manuscripts, I don't use the ellipsis character thingy Word auto creates because it does not always translate properly when pasting chapters or stories directly into emails supported by non-Microsoft email clients. That also goes for smart quotes, m-dashes, and any other special characters.

You may catch me here not putting a space between the word and the period, but that's just because I'm lazy in blog posts and emails.

Robin S. said...

Ellipsis talks. I love you guys.

No one else in my world would let me listen to or talk about this stuff. The eye-rolling I'd get around the house, well, it would almost be professional in level.

Anyway, I'd never heard of the "four periods end of sentence because of the period and then the three dots following" rule..

I, like phoenix, use an ellipsis, and think of its use, as a trailing-off mechanism. I believe you all, I just didn't know about it.

writtenwyrdd said...

Oh, I didn't intend to snark on your ellipsis comment, freddie, as you are technically correct according to my Master's level English grammar course many eons ago. But I didn't think it was still currently in use. Just asking because I was curious, is all.

Xenith said...

I use the (can't find the first page with the title on it) AGPS Style Manual, which says you put a full stop before an ellipsis "if the end of the sentence has been reached" and for "faltering speech or to suggest diffidence,
reluctance or irony" it shows the usual... Which agrees with what you said, but in a more authoriative way :)

(Noting, that when they occur in the middle of a sentence it has a space before and adter them.)

ME said...

In the world of fiction, most of the time an ellipsis at the end of a sentence indicates a thought that trails off. So the ellipsis doesn't really mean something's been skipped. And often the sentence isn't a complete sentence anyway.

Yea, I read something similar in Wiki. I strongly dislike the practice. Just because "everyone's doing it" doesn't make it right.

I better not spend any more time in this comment thread, or I may not be able to figure out what to do with that dead body in the trunk of the limo!!!

freddie said...

Oh, I know, wryttenwyrd. I just this compulsory need to explain. Wyrd.

Robin S. said...

Ooooh, you've got a dead body in the trunk???

Robin S. said...

Uh oh, guys.

I'd be Dead Fred without my (apparently) improper ellipses.

Sarah said...

I hate putting a period before (before?) or after my ellipses. Ruins the aesthetic quality of them for me. My copy editor, when I shall be fortunate to have such, can put periods wherever they wish.

So when my brain fogs and my thoughts...

Whirlochre said...

I had an ellipsis once - but the ointment soon brought it to a stop.

Returning to the submission, I concur with most of you that it reads more like a paragraph to be found buried in the first quarter of the book after prior work has been done on Jack. As such, the first two sentences are fine and flow well, but then it gets a bit bogged down with two sentences flung round the same 'had' structure. By 'Moonpie' ('She'?), it's reading a little like a roll call-cum-gazeteer and if the next sentence was about some family pet I wouldn't be surprised.

But - it's all pretty zippy in spite of its sophistications and I have no doubt that if the author whipped away the tablecloth from beneath all of this, he/she could rearrange the paper plates admirably.

So - it's definitely 'new' in the sense that I would read on, but not necessarily a 'beginning'.

BuffySquirrel said...

I hate the ellipses with spaces between. They draw way too much attention to themselves. On the other hand, the wordprocessor ellipsis characters are just annoying.

GUD house style has three fullstops between words, with no spaces, like...this, and four at the end.... No evil spaces!

AR said...

Far more pleasing, buffysquirrel. I prefer the human impulse to technicalities and rules. Meaning is far more likely to be found in the former than in the latter, and that's what writing is about, isn't it?