Friday, February 22, 2008

New Beginning 452

The first little crisis popped up at one of Didi's parties. I was sitting on the windowsill next to the drinks table, talking desultorily with Didi about finding a new apartment. Yesterday the irrepressibly chatty lady next door had cornered me in the elevator and asked me how I stayed so young-looking, which is always a sign that it's time to move on.

The front door slammed, and Didi cocked an ear.

"Who's that?"

I sat up a little and peered over the crowd.

"Travis and some Goth chick." The fluffy shirt and embroidered waistcoat were unmistakable, the spiky black coif next to him less so. He'd been doing Interview With the Vampire for the last twenty years; even I could tell it was out of date. "Travis" didn't really go with the image, but you don't get much choice of name unless you are willing to drop some serious money, which he didn't have.

Didi made a moue. "Travis needs a new shtick." Style being his first and foremost consideration, as usual.

I shrugged and took Didi's glasses off his face. He was doing The Italian Job--the original, Michael Caine--but they were his real glasses. He was a bat without them, but they transformed Travis into Austin Powers and Austin Powers fit Travis and the Goth chick like a glove.

"Now what am I supposed to do?" Didi whined.

"Do Alfie." I had to shout over the music. "Michael Caine was in that, too. Same suit." Didi shrugged.

The doorbell rang. Didi squinted across the room and said, "All right! Charlene's doing Policewoman again!" He made his way to her, banging off the furniture like a bagatelle, and greeted her with a friendly pair of mitts to the mammaries. Except it wasn't Policewoman, it was policewoman. Here about the noise. And Charlene was behind us, exiting the kitchen with the rabbit, doing Fatal Attraction. Didi's party ended early.



Opening: A. Minion.....Continuation: Anonymous

29 comments:

Evil Editor said...

If you would put "Who's that?" in the same paragraph with Didi cocked an ear, and put "Travis and some Goth chick." in the same paragraph with I sat up... we wouldn't have to figure out who's talking.

If the crowd is standing, peering over it may be difficult while not standing.

Didi made a moue may prove bothersome when you do a public reading. It hasn't been established whether Didi is man or woman here at the start of paragraph 6, and now suddenly people will be wondering if Didi's a cow. (I assumed it was short for Dierdre.)

I was sitting on his windowsill or Who's that?" he said might be a good idea.

Though I'm not anti-adverb, "desultorily," which means hahazardly, with no set plan, would apply more to a conversation that's all over the place than to a conversation specifically about finding a new apartment.

Whirlochre said...

1st brief thoughts - it's late now, here in Blighty.

A single, very quick read - and I notice the word 'little'.

I mention this because I use it a little too often.

Back tomorrow for a more thorough scan...

Dave F. said...

I think desultory is the wrong word for "engaged in idle chit-chat".

The first little crisis seems to be the second problem because the first was when the irrepressibly chatty neighbor lady (next door) asked him about his youthful looks.
Is "irrepressibly chatty" a pseudonym for Carol Channing? or Dolly Parton. Those two are irrepressibly chatty.

Travis is a southern name and as I recall, Interview With The Vampire begins in New Orleans. Why doesn't the name Travis fit? Now if you look at my picture, you'll see a face that doesn't fit the name Travis. I could never be a Travis. Not with my honker and green eyes.
What is it about Travis that makes him not a Travis. think hard about your image of Travis.

A moue is a pouty face. "Made a Moue" is alliterative. "Didi made a Moue" sounds like something I'd yell vulgarities at my dog for doing on the carpet.

"Style being his first and foremost consideration" actually implies that this is typical behavior for Travis. You've just dissed poor Travis for his bad taste in clothing in the previous paragraph. Then you do it a second time with Didi's internal dialog, so you rub it in with the two words: "as usual"

Sarah said...

I like it. Interesting setting and voice.

Here are my suggestions:

The first little crisis popped up at one of Didi's parties. I was sitting on his windowsill next to the drinks table, talking with Didi about finding a new apartment. The irrepressibly chatty lady next door had cornered me in the elevator and asked me how I stayed so young-looking. Always a sign that it's time to move on.

The front door slammed, and Didi cocked an ear. "Who's that?"

I peered over the crowd. "Travis and some Goth chick."

Unmistakable fluffy shirt and embroidered waistcoat. He'd been doing Interview With the Vampire for the last twenty years; even I could tell it was out of date. "Travis" didn't really go with the image, but you don't get much choice of name unless you’re willing to drop some serious money.

"Travis needs a new shtick." Style being Didi’s first and foremost consideration, as usual.

Prem said...

I got like, none of those movie references.

Dave F. said...

I got every reference. Let's see:

Lestat, Louis and Claudia all wear period costumes from the latter half of the 1800's. And it starts in New Orleans when Lestat realizes that Louis wants to die and makes him a vampire.
There's a magnificent scene at the end where Louis finally gets to see a sunrise in a movie-house and reminisces about the futility of life and loneliness of immortality. Really, the saddest vampire movie ever made.

The original and remake of "The Italian Job" stars Cooper Mini's in their most famous role and tells the story of a bank heist gone awry. The crooks all wear sunglasses. the original stars Michael Caine, Noel Coward, Benny Hill, and Rossano Brazzi (no joke.) the remake stars Markie Mark Wahlberg and his big guns.

Glenn Close stews up a pet in FATAL ATTRACTION.
AUstin Power wears pop-bottle bottom glasses like the old pair in my picture. Austin Powers is a spy movie that, well killed the excitement of nudity for many, many impressionable and fragile people. The man needs a hot wax. (Now Behave!)

Policewoman starred Angie Dickenson in a (to borrow a new phrase) bootylicious role.

What's it all about, Alfie? SIgh, may/september love, doomed from the start.

Former President Jimmy Carter supplied the rabbit.

BuffySquirrel said...

Obviously Dave saw the Alfie remake, not the film referred to.

Anonymous said...

Pretty good, Dave -- but you missed the bonus extra...

freddie said...

I like the tone of this. I think it's well-written. I'm wondering a couple of things. These aren't things I expect to be explained within the first 150 words, mind you.

I did not get at all whether Didi was male or female in the first few paragraphs. Also, why wouldn't Travis get much choice of name unless he was willing to drop some serious money? Just curious . . .

Dave F. said...

At the end of the movie, Ruby (Shelley Winters) rejects Alfie for a younger man...

The answer to the bonus questions is Persepolis ...

WereAuthor said...

Thanks for commenting, everyone!

This is the opening scene of Face-Lift 492, for those who care.

The "desultorily" is non-negotiable ("disappointing in progress, performance, or quality"). :)

The geometry of peering over crowds makes sense for the type of windowsill I had in mind, although I guess it is unreasonable to expect the reader to be familiar with older New York City apartment buildings.

dave f. said:
"The first little crisis seems to be the second problem because the first was when the irrepressibly chatty neighbor lady (next door) asked him about his youthful looks."

True, but that doesn't rank as a crisis, just part of life as usual for the protagonist.

dave f. also said:
"Travis is a southern name and as I recall, Interview With The Vampire begins in New Orleans. Why doesn't the name Travis fit?"

Interview With The Vampire (the main part, not the framing scenes) is set in the 1790's. Travis, at least in the US, didn't become popular as a given name until the 1970's. Also, it does nothing for your Goth cred. "I am a vampire, a creature of the night; you may call me... Travis."

It looks like everyone is having problems with Didi = guy, and whose sense of style is their first consideration, so that may need some work.

wereAuthor said...

freddie said:
"Also, why wouldn't Travis get much choice of name unless he was willing to drop some serious money? Just curious . . ."

It's a fake identity (he's older than he looks...). Coming up with a set of documents that can pass even a cursory background check is a lot harder than getting a forged Driver's License to get an 18 year old into a bar.

Evil Editor said...

The "desultorily" is non-negotiable.

If you are fortunate enough to find a publisher who offers a contract (despite "desultorily" in sentence 2), and your editor removes "desultorily," are you saying you will nix the deal?

Publishers don't employ editors to make suggestions to authors. They employ them to get rid of the kind of stuff that will make a reader put a book back on the shelf and pick up another one. I recommend a bit more flexibility.

iago said...

Definitely agree with EE on that one. "Desultorily" is a nasty word (in my subjective opinion, obviously), even when used correctly, which it often isn't. Often. It almost stopped me in my tracks here.

There were two or three other things I was uncomfortable with, but clearly that's my problem, not the author's; so I'll say no more.

stick and move said...

I'm not completely anti-adverb, but I think they should be used with discretion. "Desultorily" put me off right out of the gate, and then to follow it up with "irrespressibly" in the next sentence, well, not to sound too harsh, but my first thought was "amateur".

I'm an amateur, too, but I do my best not to write like one. Author, I would suggest that you listen to EE and try to be open-minded with suggestions by people who know more than you about what works and what doesn't.

iago said...

Actually, pay no attention to me. Tired and grumpy after a long flight home...

debhoag said...

just to put things in their proper perspective, I feel behooved to to point out that the same crowd who has trouble with desultorily and moue also referred to animal sex and doggie doo-doo a whopping total of ten times in the newest fake titles exercise. And we're the avid readers. Did you notice the one stunning pun on a Martin Buber book? there's a minion who can moue in a charmingly desultory fashion.

Dave F. said...

I don't giggle at this: I am a vampire, a creature of the night; you may call me... Travis.
Travis is an old English named that traces iteself back to 1066 (travers) and Bill Travis died at the Alamo in 1836.

I do giggle at:
- I am a vampire, a creature of the night; you may call me... Leslie.
I am a vampire; you may call me... Winthrop
I am a vampire; you may call me... Percy
I am a vampire; you may call me... Talulah
I am a vampire; you may call me... Dweezil (Zappa)


Now for those who do not know much about fake identities. A way to obtain one is to look in the death notices for a dead person with your approximate birth year. Let's say you want to establish ID as a 30 year old. You go to a paper and look for a kid (hey, I know how awful this sounds) who was born then and died before the age of ten or twelve. Then you can check the Social Security Office for a number and bingo, you got the first part of a birth certificate and a valid ID. This is so illegal but those (nasty mean hungry poor and unwashed) immigrants do it all the time.

Now if you pick the Social Security number of a man or woman who died ten years ago at 70, not only are you criminal but you are stupid.
If you're a baby-face blond and your ID says 45 years old... (think of a word that rhymes with cupid).

Vampires as immortal creatures.
So now as an immortal, a old lady walks up to you and accuses you of being her first lover. It's true, what do you do?
Your neighbor of 15 years notices no gray hair, no middle age spread, and no wrinkles - what do you do?

As an immortal, you look like you're twenty two and you speak of meeting Dick Clark on his Bandstand. Or playing riff's with Dexter Gordon... That's a big ooops!

Now Travis's problem with dating a teenage Goth girl is twofold - A) there only three active brain cells in her head and that's amazingly obvious when she speaks eloquently of Proust and Biggie Smalls in one breath. B) she's got the clap.



.

Whirlochre said...

Yes - 'desultorily' and 'moue' both have to go and the speakers need tagging more clearly.

As it goes, it's OK - but I can't help thinking that vampires (straight or ironic) have had the life sucked out of them.

talpianna said...

Main Entry: random
Function: adjective
Text: lacking a definite plan, purpose, or pattern. Synonyms aimless, arbitrary, desultory, erratic, haphazard, hit-or-miss, scattered, slapdash, stray
Related words accidental, casual, chance, fluky, fortuitous, inadvertent, incidental, lucky, unconsidered, unintended, unintentional, unplanned, unpremeditated; irregular, sporadic, spot; objectless, purposeless; indiscriminate, unsystematic; unaimed, undirected

Dave: Noël Coward and Benny Hill IN THE SAME MOVIE? What HAVE you been smoking?

On the actual New Beginning: Though I think the critics have good points, on the whole, this is something that would make me read more.

What's wrong with "Travis"? I'm currently reading a book with vampires named Dave and Doug.

My fellow minions: Who is the one among us who is the true Yoda--EE or Dave?

yodaphile said...

Tal, methinks Dave googles overmuch. Many of his comments read very like Cassie Edwards novels. His eruditeness is more googliteness; whereas EE is, well, more Yoda-ee.

debhoag said...

or google-itis. I suffer from wiki-itis myself. I was thinking I would have to dedicate my next book to Wikipedia; that and those subversive-type guys who are constantly publishing classified government information on the WWW.

Dave F. said...

The original "Italian Job" from 1969 did indeed have Noel Coward and Benny Hill in the cast.

And EE is the Yoda of his blog.

I just have insomnia...

writtenwyrdd said...

I wasn't grabbed by this opening at all. Most of the problem was confusion over who was speaking, I think. If you make the corrections EE suggests I think that will fix it. But I'd still like to know what the second crisis is going to be pretty darn fast.

I thought Didi was a guy, and had to reread to confirm that assumption, which was based on context. I would like a dialog tag that gives gender right off if you are going to use an ambiguous gender. Or perhaps Didi is a transvestite and goes by she when in drag?

wereauthor said...

Our Evil Overlord said:
"If you are fortunate enough to find a publisher who offers a contract (despite "desultorily" in sentence 2), and your editor removes "desultorily," are you saying you will nix the deal?"

Well, let's say that when someone expresses an interest in giving me money for the book many things will suddenly become a lot more negotiable. :)

Why so much hate for "moue"? It fits Didi's personality and self-presentation (which admittedly the reader hasn't been exposed to much at this point). Would it really be a dealbreaker for you guys?

dave f said:
"Travis is an old English named that traces iteself back to 1066 (travers) and Bill Travis died at the Alamo in 1836."

Yes, as a surname Travis has a long history, but as a given name it is fairly recent.

On fake identities:
Getting a real-but-not-yours birth certificate and SS number is not a big deal, as dave f notes. Getting an identity that is 5-10 years from your apparent age and includes a college degree, relevant work history, contactable references, etc, is a bit harder. Not all of the "gifted" want to work as janitors and fry cooks.

dave f said:
"Your neighbor of 15 years notices no gray hair, no middle age spread, and no wrinkles - what do you do?"

Yeah, that's why you don't stay in one place for 15 years. :)

writtenwyrdd said:
"But I'd still like to know what the second crisis is going to be pretty darn fast."

Three more paragraphs and it all becomes clear (Travis has brought a normal - the Goth chick - to Didi's gifted-only bash).

Thanks to everyone for their input. I guess the overall feeling is that the opening is not-so-hot. Back to the keyboard!

Phoenix said...

Why so much hate for "moue"? It fits Didi's personality and self-presentation

Didi can make as many moues as he wants. However, the phrase is, exactly like Travis as a first name is not, stilted and old-fashioned. Would that be a phrase your POV character would use? One who uses phrases like popped up, chatty lady, Goth chick and drop some serious money? Aside from not being terribly common, it sounds wrong with the rest of the voice, whereas Didi pouted or Didi's mouth fished up would fit right in.

Same with desultorily. Aside from breaking up the rhythm of the sentence and not really adding any value to the thought presented, it sticks out as being "off" from the rest of the voice.

I thought Didi was a "she" at first, too, FWIW.

writtenwyrdd said...

"Made a moue" is too alliterative and cutesy too, IMO. It clunks right there at the beginning. Maybe try that line if you love it so...but later on, when we have Didi's character established and as readers it makes sense.

BuffySquirrel said...

How do you know she's got the clap, Dave? Did you give it to her?

L.ParkerDavis said...

IF giving up "made a moue" and "desultorily" are really so very hard, maybe you can give them to Didi to say, since it's his personality you're trying to fit with them.