Tuesday, March 04, 2008

New Beginning 458

Hannah Carpenter had been married 24 years when her husband Denby died in a Peruvian bus plunge. He and Hannah had been vacationing in the Andes, hiking from village to village, getting the local flavor, avoiding the usual tourist spots. The bus was overcrowded, the road was narrow, and the driver was speeding. It was an accident waiting to happen, and it didn’t wait long.

Hannah was devastated, but she pulled herself together. She phoned Denby’s sister and asked her to pass along the bad news to their friends and relatives. She arranged to have Denby’s body flown back to Columbus. She canceled her flight home and caught an earlier one. She even tore the report describing the accident out of a newspaper and put it into her purse.

Home in Columbus, Hannah put the newspaper clipping in her photo album, the same album in which she put the photographs of Denby and the Peruvian peasants and the llamas. The news report read:

Crazed Driver Kills 37 Gringoes, Four Goats and Seven Chickens In Bus Crash

Lima, Peru (Reuters). Gustavo Rebozo made the last wrong turn of his Andes Shuttle Service last Monday as he sped along Cliffside Drive with a pint of Old Crow rotgut whiskey in one hand and a cell phone in the other. Witnesses saw the bus fishtailing wildly and passengers hanging out the windows screaming American vulgarities, no doubt distracting Rebozo from his phone call.

In business news, stock in Denby China International plunged drastically in late trading.


Opening: Evil Editor.....Continuation: Dave F.

37 comments:

Evil Editor said...

Unchosen Continuation:


After nearly three straight years of decline, it looks like house prices in the city of Columbus, Ohio are finally on the up. According to experts from the Columbus Realtors Association, available housing stock is at an all time low, pushing prices back up to 2004 levels...

Hannah was delighted. With the money from the insurance policy, and now the profit from the house, she and Alejandro would be able to get that sweet condo in Rio.

She stroked Alejandro's hair and told him they'd got it made. He just blinked, cleared his throat, and carried on chewing the hay.

--ril

Evil Editor said...

Too many cliches: accident waiting to happen, pulled herself together, Peruvian llamas.

Nonetheless, I simply must know what happens next to poor, brave Hannah

Dave F. said...

This is a great setup but For-What, we don't know. In fact, this is one a classic setup - accident in an unusual place - why did it occur? How did the accident happen? Was it an accident? Is there some "invisible hand of God" that manipulates these characters into this exact fate - sudden death in a strange location? Why was Hanna not on the bus?

That last paragraph should have a twist.
Or the headline has to be a stunner.

Own up EE - is this the beginning or your WIP?

Evil Editor said...

It's the start of chapter 2; Hannah wasn't in chapter 1.

Robin S. said...

OK- what's the deal?

Did you write this for us, or for publication? Just checking, before I go on...

Cathy in AK said...

Like Dave, I want to know why Hannah wasn't on the bus too. Did she send Denby alone on that particular day trip, claiming a headache while she stayed in the hotel scrubbing break fluid out of her blouse?

Evil Editor said...

It's something I wouldn't mind selling, but possibly too short at 50,000. I put it up because we were out of openings.

Hannah was on the bus. She didn't die.

Anonymous said...

Hey this is pretty good. Flows right along and I almost thought it was from the write-a-fake-news prompt. I did kinda stumble (in my mental characterization of Hannah) at "tore the report . . . out of a newspaper" line because she seems like the kind to have scissors. Good One EE!!

ME

150 said...

Gosh, I laughed at the continuation. Nice. :)

Dave F. said...

Hanna was on the bus and survived. Interesting.

Apparently, Bebe's brother Gustavo Rebozo will be reincarnated as a worm and not a leech because someone survived. As long as he and Hanna aren't shacking up in Las Vegas with the insurance money.

Are they near The Bridge of San Luis Rey? I mean it might all be Divine Intervention.

Then again, plastic-ware dinner dish magnates Irv and Morrie Schmelzer might be eliminating the competition. Denby is a line of finer Dinnerware. It's not fine china but it is premium dinnerware. I personally eat off Sango (better than Correlle and Fiesta) but I cook with All-Clad since the All-Clad factory is nearby.

I hope the newspaper article you wrote reveals some vile conspiracy or murder plot. Unless this is LIterary Fiction, and then we're in for 50K words of heart-rending tears and recriminations as Hannah weeps unconsolably in the vividly described living room.

Robin S. said...

In other news..(I'm doing my 'other news' thing first because your opening carries with it, as one reads, a kind of breezy, aging hippie newsiness along) I just noticed on my EE blog perusal, before settling down to read, that you are about to hit 900 freakin' thousand hits , Sparky. Congratulations.

Anyway, now that I know you have something invested in this besides babysitting us, I reread with interest, so on to business:

1- Aren't you supposed to spell out numbers in text (24, for ex.?)

2-Love the line: It was an accident waiting to happen, and it didn’t wait long.

3- I find myself fascinated with Hannah, and her ability to pull herself together with such splendid aplomb. Makes me wonder.

4-Interesting last name you chose there, Carpenter. Carries some baggage with it, both good and bad.

5- I like it that your language usage and sentence structure dictate the use of phrase-based commas. I like commas. Apparently they have lost some ground, and the scuttlebutt is we aren't to use them as much, as they break up the flow. Bullshit, is what I say.

6- So you're writing a novel? honestly? Cool.

And Dave - love your continuation!

Robin S. said...

Oh, yeah, right...forgot...that idle/idol thing is on, right?

Evil Editor said...

It's over. But you can download the performances on itunes.

Anonymous said...

Is this for real? Course, no one would critique EE, anyway*.

If you do publish another novel, let me know, I'd be interested.





*telling, telling, telling, backstory, backstory.

;)

Robin S. said...

Another novel? So there's already been a novel published by you, EE?
Genre?

Give me a break with the telling backstory crap, please. I've read plenty of utter and total bulshit schlock that wasn't either of those.

And, uh, you have to be kidding with the 'nobody critiques EE' bit. He's critiqued on a more-than-daily basis. I should know.

Anonymous said...

Or you could, you know, disagree by positing a cogent and reasoned counter-argument rather than resorting to a potty-mouthed tirade. Perhaps?

Evil Editor said...

Has some famous author now declared there can be no backstory in a novel? I suppose this means all novels must begin with the birth of the oldest character--which is okay if we don't mind waiting till chapter 25 for the explosions.

Robin S. said...

You know, there are a lot of things I could do. But, as I posit, convince, digress, and in myriad other ways play verbal chess (sans potty-mouth) all day long, five days a week, I prefer to comment in my own way when on my own time, disregarding any effete attempts at comeuppance that come my way.

You have yet to witness a tirade from me. Believe it.

And if you plan on remaining high up there, above the fray, nice and fussy and stuffy and multi-syllabic and self-satisfied, at least have the...(hmmm, I tell you what, just fill in the blanks here, I'm assuming you have an active inagination)...to post without anonymity.

Evil Editor said...

My comment was suposed to be funny too, as we've recently been told two similes per novel, no adverbs, etc.

iago said...

OK. Fair enough. I was just playing.

Robin S. said...

Goddamit - I had a feeling that might have been you- but then I thought...no- he wouldn't do that.

Sarah said...

I like the voice. I also like it in the order you have it, but I wonder how it would read if we got more of the info from the newspaper than from the telling of the first couple of paragraphs.

My suggestions/notes:

Hannah Carpenter had been married 24 years when her husband Denby died in a Peruvian bus plunge. He and Hannah had been vacationing in the Andes, hiking from village to village, getting the local flavor, avoiding the usual tourist spots. The bus was overcrowded, the road was narrow, the driver was speeding. It was an accident waiting to happen. It didn’t wait long. [My personal style is to lose conjunctions for a more rhythmic flow]

Hannah was devastated, but she pulled herself together. She phoned Denby’s sister and asked her to pass along the bad news to their friends and relatives. She arranged to have Denby’s body flown back to Columbus. She canceled her flight home and caught an earlier one. She even tore the report describing the accident out of a newspaper and stuck it in her purse. [Telling and then showing. Might want to consider losing the telling part. Maybe. It sort of works here though]

Home in Columbus, Hannah pressed the newspaper clipping in her photo album, the same album in which she placed the photographs of Denby, the Peruvian peasants, and the llamas. The news report read:

Robin S. said...

Sarah,

You couldn't have commented at a better time if you'd tried, sweetie.

You're the best.

Sarah said...

Yeah? Good. ;-)

Forgot to mention that I was keeping track of the two rule - two similes, two metaphors (or was that two total of both of those), two backstory?, two telling, two cliches I'm sure...

Dave F. said...

I disagree with Sarah's changes. It's my opinion that if the author reveals the newspaper article, then the style and tone of the chapter has to differ from a news article. Sarah's opening is excellent but it reads like a news story. So when the reader reads the Peru newspaper, it night blend into the rest of the paragraph. I think that the news article has to reveal something startling.

That's why I wrote the continuation. In fact, I read the opening once, and very uncharacteristically, wrote the continuation in one sitting. the news story is grotesquely idiotic. It makes fun of death. It makes fun of nationalities. It invokes Richard Nixon. It blames the victims for their own deaths. It's cruel. It equates goats and cow to human lives (you can't eat gringos like you can eat chickens and cows).

But the last thought, the last ten words - hint at murder, international intrigue and something more than just Hannah's personal tragedy. Not that EE or any author couldn't write a book about Hannah's tragedy, alone. But there is more.

Whirlochre said...

This is interesting because there's so much back story for an opener and You're Not Supposed To Do That.

However - it works. As far as I'm concerned, story is story, whether back or beyond and what counts is whether it's good or bad story.

In spite of what the new zealots of style are saying, there's quite a lot of back story in quite a few bestselling novels - and a fair number of commas too.

To hell with the miserable fuckers, I say.

Anyhow, to the EEWIP.

What I can't work out is what the tone of this is. Bus plunges, for sure, are up there on the tragic list along with losing your arms to a crocodile and having your singing dissed by S.C. but I'm not getting tragedy from this - especially when the llamas rear their furry (yet bizarre) heads. A local farmer keeps llamas in one of his fields and all they seem to spend their time doing is pissing. Every time I drive by, the entire herd is at it. Ah - maybe it's just me.

Also - do we 'pass along' news now? Or is this another fiendish U.S. construction to replace 'pass on'?

My guess is that Hannah forgets her husband and moves in with Carlos Valderrama on his mountainside soccer ranch.

BuffySquirrel said...

Hannah was devastated...

Apart from being cliched, this doesn't evoke any sense of Hannah's grief. It's just words.

Try something like,

Hannah went from click-clicking on her high heels to a flat-footed plod, but she....

(only better)

I don't think you need the line about pulling herself together--instead go straight into the list of actions that show she's done that. Showing and telling the same thing slows the narrative without enhancing it.

Also, don't "getting the local flavor" and "avoiding the usual tourist spots" effectively say the same thing? I'd cut "to their friends and relatives" as well, since it's implied.

If the writing were tighter, the narrative might draw the reader in more. Although I wasn't much drawn in. If it's intended as humour, then I'm afraid it falls flat for me--except the "accident waiting to happen" line. Maybe more quirky language would tip the reader off that this is meant to be funny? Then again, humour is so personal!

:)

Robin S. said...

Chris can't see this post and she's not happy about that, so it's now on its way, complete with comments, via email.

Weren't the cliches part of the point of the opening? And the whole Hannah devastated bit - I've known those types of devastated individuals - and they pull themselves together so quickly because they are, in fact, not devastated at all. That's what I take away from this re: her personality - a dry stick.

Evil Editor said...

Thanks for all the comments. I'll give them serious consideration. A few are rendered less problematic by the previously announced fact that this is a chapter opening, not the novel opening. Then there's the natural reluctance to remove anything from a novel that's pretty short as it is.

Maybe I should try this new publisher, Evil Editor Publications. I hear they do short books.

Robin S. said...

If one of us had a 50,000 word novel, I think you'd say: add prose.

I have too many words and am pruning mine widely, while at the same time adding more, much more, from my previously mentioned USB portals from hell - if you need an extra 20,000, I've got plenty here for you.

But I'm guessing that would cause confusion.

ChristineEldin said...

Robin, THanks! I got your email, but now I'm in! I'm in! I don't know why Blogger does this to me over here. Doesn't let me in during real-time. Do you know how many times I've read Cartoon 6?

First off, "Drive" by James Sallis was a nice read. Very short, but nice.

Anyway,
(gulp) I don't have anything against back story. But you condensed a lot of fun out of the first paragraph. Could we not be there in the bus during the plunge? In a surreal kind of way? I think that kind of detailed opening paragraph would contrast nicely with the spiky sentences and from-a-distance view of the aftermath in the next two paragraphs.

I agree wiht the comment about tearing out the article. She sounds meticulous (to me).

I'm intrigued---want an extra beta reader? I'd love to read it....
:-)

ChristineEldin said...

Forgot to say--Dave, your continuation was hysterical!

Sarah said...

Something I forgot to put in my notes - you use 'put' a few times. You might want to consider words that have a bit more weight / description.

Reading some good suggestions for adding words here. Like the one about being on the bus with them and getting it real time. A lot depends on where this chapter is going.

One thing I did for a WIP was to do a 1 line summary of each chapter, then decide if there needed to be any chapters added.

writtenwyrdd said...

I thought the beginning didn't get close to the point, was cliched, and was really distant in feel to Hanna, whom I presume is your protagonist. Despite all that, though, I would have kept reading. Something about this appealed to me.

Seriously, not sucking up. I just read the comments and realized you wrote this one, EE.

McKoala said...

While her disinterest is telling, so is the style. Heh, heh, see what I've done there? Heh, heh...

However, before Robin disembowels me while picking Iago's bones from her teeth...if you dropped the second sentence of para one I could probably live with it, because I do think that the flat style of telling works well with her unemotional response. Why drop that sentence? Hm. I just don't think you need it. The information you give about the bus implies most of what you state there.

Do I get to live?

freddie said...

I like this. I think it works.

I like the flattish tone. I get the sense that Hannah is uber-practical and perhaps a little cold.

Dave's continuation is great; I get the feeling this is similar to what you might read in a Peruvian newspaper - little jibes at America.

Robin S. said...

Hi WO, I like your style:

As far as I'm concerned, story is story, whether back or beyond and what counts is whether it's good or bad story.

In spite of what the new zealots of style are saying, there's quite a lot of back story in quite a few bestselling novels - and a fair number of commas too.

To hell with the miserable fuckers, I say.


I couldn't possibly have said it better myself.

Hi iago,

I still can't quite believe you'd zap me like that, without naming names (yours, that is). I'm not normally a fan of the turnabout bit, but really...and not even a 'sorry'. I'm hurt.

Hi McK,

No disemboweling, sweetie.


EE,

Are you really thinking about stuff, or was that placation? Because I still think, especially as this is a chapter opening, it works. And I think you know, if I thought it sucked, I'd say it.