Thursday, June 05, 2008

New Beginning 510

The dead leave quietly down some back elevator, trundled along by resigned pushers in white lab coats with shiny nametags. Sheets cover their dead bodies and they pass by my door rarely, but I know its them because they can't be seen. You don't hide the faces of the living if you can help it.

Everything the living is is fronted by the face. The living need their faces and their eyes and ears.

But the dead are different.

The dead don't need a thing. The dead aren't wanting and they don't complain. Their lights have been turned off and they have truly left the building. Their brains no longer play tricks on them and their minds are no longer matter. They're no longer improbable beings with improbable lives but merely dead unseen bodies on trundling gurneys disappearing down back elevators by resigned pushers. Until you join them, I wish the two of you every happiness.

Clarence ended by polishing off the entire glass of champagne in one gulp.

The wedding party sat silent - stunned. Allie folded her arms over her chest and glared at her new husband. He would pay dearly tonight for insisting his brother be allowed to make a toast.



Opening: anon......Continuation: R. Watson

40 comments:

BuffySquirrel said...

You're trying too hard with the adjectives in that first sentence. Which is most important--that the pushers are resigned, that their lab coats are white, or that their nametags are shiny? Pick the one detail that evokes the scene you're describing most effectively, and concentrate on that. What do you most want the reader to see--the bright coats, the resigned pushers, the shiny nametags? Giving each noun an adjective dilutes the effect of the whole.

I like the third paragraph, although I think you could dump the somewhat cliched "they have truly left the building". Most of what you have there comes across to me as original, so why spoil it with something borrowed?

An interesting opening.

Ulysses said...

The continuation was brilliant.

Anonymous said...

yes, Ulysses is right, best continuation in a long time...

Evil Editor said...

P1: I'm not crazy about the term "resigned pushers." I'd delete it and say trundled along by white lab coats with shiny nametags.

Also delete "dead" from "dead bodies."

Delete "and" and start a new sentence.

P2: Delete "and their eyes and ears."

P4: Change the first sentence to The dead need nothing.

Get rid of left the building, as Buffy suggests.

Delete "dead" from "dead unseen bodies."

Delete "by resigned pushers."


I would delete "But the dead are different." I think the next sentence is more powerful without it.

Now you've got something here.

Dave F. said...

An interesting opening. Where do the dead lead us? I think that after EE's changes, the reader is ready for something about the living. It's a moody and atmospheric opening.

I also think you should consider removing "Their lights have been turned off" - - this depends on how serious and "deathly" this opening wants to be. Putting their lights out is lighter in voice than the rest of the narrative. So was Elvis left the building.

Sarah Laurenson said...

I was hooked from the first line, but it wasn't what I thought it was. Then it started talking about gurneys and the dead not doing anything. Crap. I liked the dead standing upright and being pushed into an elevator by bored people in lab coats. And where did that elevator take them? I thought this was going to be a cool story with dead characters. *sigh*

A few typos in there and I'm stuck on those. And the mundane living character story was a bit of a let down after that beginning.

Sarah Laurenson said...

The typos:

Everything the living is is fronted by the face.

Their brains no longer play tricks on them and their minds are no longer matter.

ChrisEldin said...

I actually LOVE the first sentence of the continuation (Until you join them)

I liked this, and even better with EE's edits.

AR said...

I have to disagree somewhat with Buffy. Since you don't come out and tell us, "hey I'm about to describe a hospital scene" the details allow the image to emerge until we recognize the scene. Then we know what you are talking about.

I like the opening sentence as I pictured the River Styx. The following cleared that up for me, but the atmosphere lingered.

Have you physically been at a scene like this, and noticed a resigned look on the faces of people pushing the gurneys? If so, not to argue with EE, that's an authentic detail that brings it - um, to life - for me. Maybe reword it, as "pushers" is awkward. Unless you are trying to evoke drug-dealers.

One thing that's hard about this format is that no one knows whether something here might be necessary to the story later on. I try to assume that it might be.

I would keep reading.

AR said...

Sorry, I meant I liked the first phrase, as the first sentence is obviously a hospital scene. "The dead leave" makes it sound active when actually they are being removed - thus evoking Styx.

Scott from Oregon said...

Hi y'all. I have to confess, this opens the second half of a novel so some elements "left the building" are references to something previous. I wanted the tone of the book to change, so "the dead" were introduced as hospital characters as yet unmentioned. I was hoping it would stand as an opening, and am thankful for suggestions, especially the "EE treatment".

I'll have to think about the objections to "resigned pushers"...

If you collect dead bodies from hospital beds, what else can you be and survive in the job but resigned?

Evil Editor said...

It's just that pusher is an odd term. Even without the drug connotation, when I see someone pushing something, I don't refer to him as a pusher. In a hospital he'd be a resigned orderly. On a job site maybe a resigned laborer, pushing a wheelbarrow. I guess what I call him depends on what he's pushing.

benwah said...

Having worked in numerous hospitals in the US...the dead aren't wheeled around the hallways covered in white sheets. There are gurneys with recessed tops that spare the visitors and other patients from wondering what happened to the poor bastard under the shroud. For the sake of poetic license, it's a fine conceit, however.

As for the folks who collect the bodies, the transport guys tend to be the same as the ones who wheel people to X-ray or push folks from the recovery room back upstairs. The bodies are just bodies. Something else to push around. As I heard one of them say once: "Least the dead ones don't talk on the elevator." (If you only see a dead person as dead the impact is far, far less than if you've previously seen the dead person as alive. There's that evolutionarily built in revulsion, but repetition blunts that fairly quickly. Black humor rules the day.) Resigned is a fine descriptor, but I don't quite like the repetition of it. Unless you're shooting for ghoulish.

I read the "is is" not as a typo but rather "everything the living IS (happens to be) IS fronted by a face." Makes sense, but clumsy, as pointed out.

Scott from Oregon said...

I thought it lent to their anonymity. Calling them "orderlies" suggests one knows them. That was the intent, anyway. To make them, by effect, "ghostly".

Wes said...

I agree with Buffy re: the first sentence. Every reference to the pushers detracts from the dead. Aren't the dead your primary focus?

BuffySquirrel said...

Yes, the opening paragraph needs to set the scene, but it doesn't need all those adjectives to do that. With them, it's a first-line rejection.

Whirlochre said...

I'm not taken by this.

Resigned pushers, is is, lights, buildings and more resigned pushers — too much irritation for a few paragraphs.

I'm sure more about the narrator is imminent, and that might help things along, but as it stands, he isn't saying enough to grab me.

Liked the continuation.

Bonnie said...

I really liked this.

Nit: "Sheets cover their dead bodies" -- the last plural noun you had for "their" to refer to was the shiny nametags. Either that, or the resigned pushers.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, EE inspired me here. It isn't RESIGNED that is awkward, it's PUSHER. I definitely like the word RESIGNED but I'd go with EE and use ORDERLY instead of PUSHER.

Good job, Scott from Yankland.

...dave conifer

Evil Editor said...

Calling them "orderlies" suggests one knows them.

I don't see that. Calling anyone by his occupation instead of his name suggests to me that you don't know him. Why don't you call them ghosts? Or zombies? Resigned zombies, that's what they are, right?

Anonymous said...

When a drug dealer leaves the profession to become a car salesman, does that make him a "resigned pusher"?

Scott from Oregon said...

benwah-- I was just talking to Mum about "the dead". Her 42 years of hospital experience says that some hospitals use the poor over-worked nurses "Anyone available at the moment" and that sheets are common for the financially poorer hospitals who can't afford shrouded gurneys.

freddie said...

I agree with buffy about too many adjectives in the first sentence, and with EE about 'orderlies' vs. 'pushers.' I'd ditch 'pushers' for 'orderlies' because 'orderlies' is more clear. Unless, of course, 'pushers' has a specific meaning in your book.

By the way, if you're trying to give the orderlies a ghostlike quality, why the nametags? If an adjective were to go in that first sentence, that would be the one I would pick.

They're no longer improbable beings with improbable lives but merely dead unseen bodies on trundling gurneys disappearing down back elevators is all you need in that last paragraph in the opening. Repeating 'resigned pushers' is distracting there.

I think almost everything everyone is pointing out here are easy fixits. Take the suggestions, and you've really got a good start here. I'd read on.

Scott from Oregon said...

"Why don't you call them ghosts? Or zombies? Resigned zombies, that's what they are, right?"

Ummm... No. The book actually makes the case that "mind" can only exist because of the physical brain, making all sentient "spirits" like ghosts or even "the soul" human constructs. The character is lying in bed after waking from a coma, knowing part of his "brain" was left on a street and smooshed by bullies, so his way of thinking about dead bodies is colored by his thoughts about what's left within himself...

In other words, he's trying to define "mind" for himself because he knows a scoop of his brain is missing, and "life" for himself, because he was effectively "dead" in his own mind for 3 and a half months...

Robin S. said...

Holy crap - what a good continuation!

Hey Scott-
I had to stop and reread with the resigned pushers- I just kept thinking I'd missed the drug part somehow. I think this could be really good- it just needs a clean-up.

I agree about with EE about deleting "but the dead are different" - I agree it makes the next sentence more powerful - although I have to admit I wouldn't have come up with that on my own.

I think you're opening paragraph is good, except it has a strain to it, a "you're trying harder than you need to" quality.

I like what you're doing here - and I'd read on.

talpianna said...

Good moody opening, but for me it goes on too long. Shouldn't we start focusing much earlier on the point of the scene?

Phoenix said...

Hi Scott: I stumbled over Their brains no longer play tricks on them and their minds are no longer matter. Initially, I thought "brain" and "mind" were the same thing here. But after your explan of what happened to the MC, I see you want them to be different. But after that explan, how you differentiate them here confused me more. I then thought you meant them to be switched. A mind no longer playing tricks makes sense. But a brain no longer being matter? That doesn't make sense to me. The brain is a physical thing and therefore matter (like what the MC has left splattered in the street). Since the brain/mind dilemma seems a crux, perhaps you can make this a little clearer?

Evocative, once all the nits are cleaned up.

Scott from Oregon said...

I've been thinking of replacements for my "resigned pushers"

I have "cheery wheelers"

"morbid deadmanhandlers"

and my favorite "the gurnymen"

(if you are new you are an apprentice gurnyman...)

Evil Editor said...

And if you've wheeled the dead around at a different hospital every year, you're a journeyman gurneyman.

Jeb said...

I vote for gurneymen.

All else I'd say has been eloquently expressed elsewhere.

Scott from Oregon said...

Pheonix-- Long thread, so maybe a moot point by now, but...

"Their brains no longer play tricks on them and their minds are no longer matter"

The brain, under the most recent brain/mind hyothesis creates an illusion of "mind" by assembling disparate parts into what we think of as "consciousness". In other words, there is no "I" in there, yet we percieve one. It is a "trick" of the brain.

The "mind" is truly made up of matter, as it is a product of the brain. Without the matter to create the illusion/quality of "mind", there is no mind. Therefore, the idea of sentient "souls" (so much for the virgin-rewarded afterlife!)and sentient "ghosts" is illogical.

Energy may be constant, but "mind" is a product of "brain", which requires "life" to do the creating...

Hope that clears that up for you...

stick and move said...

This is an evocative opening but, like several others commented, some of the images evoked weren't congruous with the story. I don't like the resigned pushers, and agree that "orderlies" reads better.

I also think the "... is is..." sentence needs to be reworked, and "The dead don't need a thing." should be lopped off.

The 4th paragraph goes on without any action long enough to annoy me, but dropping the first sentence makes it less so. I'd also take out "Their brains no longer play tricks..."

I like this chapter opening and I imagine it's probably better in the context of the book, but it can still be improved from where it stands now. Keep working on it, it has good bones.

stick and move said...

Oh, and the continuation. Brilliant. A classic. It's got my vote to make the cut for Novel Deviations Volume 4.

Scott from Oregon said...

"BTW, the dead do have their needs. They need dignity and respect.
Most Hospital personnel talk to the dead, bathe them, and dress them.
Yes, they are treated like slabs of meat, but it's different than what you may imagine."

Umm... the dignity and respect would be for the living? I asked Mum (42 years a nurse in "the industry" about "most personnel talking to the dead and bathing them and dressing them" and she says to watch out for you...

Where she worked (large Community Hospital, three floors and a basement) the dead were run down to the morgue "as is", and the beds were made available for new patients...

G Clemmons said...

I liked the whole thing. I agree with the initial edits suggested by EE, but there were no typos. Perhaps the "is is" line could be rewritten to flow a little better, and from what Scott has said, the "minds *are* no longer matter" line is key to the story.

I like the idea of taking out "resigned pushers"; it makes the detachment even greater (they're just white coats with name tags).

I'm with Sarah L., I was hoping the dead were going to be more... animated. Those faceless white coats with name tags just because faceless lines in an obituary!

I enjoyed the writing and laughed out loud at the continuation.

phoenix said...

Erm, OK, Scott. Still trying to wrap my head around the mind/brain thing. It seems you're saying that the mind is illusion created by the brain. And that it takes matter to create the illusion. But how does it follow that the illusion (the mind) is matter? For instance, it takes mass (or matter) for gravity to exist, but gravity is neither mass nor matter. Sorry, maybe I'm just being dense (oh, no pun intended there!). I'll think on it some more.

Julie Weathers said...

Scott, I am being really lazy lately, but I did want to comment. This caught my attention as being very beautiful in an odd way. The others have touched on most of the points I would have made, dead bodies etc. Bodies are dead by default.

Even so, it was very engaging.

Scott from Oregon said...

Yes, Lyle, "respect for the dead" is way cool as it is performed by the living, and that's way cool.

My story is not about how the dead are cared for so I changed a word or two to avoid problems with verisimilitude (my favorite word, oh joy!)

pheonix "mind" resides within the chemicals of the brain, so it is inseperable from brain matter.

The whole concept intrigues me because so much myth has been centered around the fallacy that mind can detach from its hosts, the brain...

Religion, supernatural entities... all based on this one fallacy.

talpianna said...

Seriously, why not call them what they actually are: gurney-pushers?

Julie Weathers said...

Religion, supernatural entities... all based on this one fallacy.~

Interesting thought.