Monday, January 12, 2009

New Beginning 594

“Your drug induced coma is the anteroom to my reality. You stupid a--”

That is exactly what Beatrice said to Will the last time she ever saw him. So, Will was history. He wanted to go on dancing with his pharmaceutical crush of middle school proportions long after the prized introductions were over. And, Beatrice heard cosmic music. It was only for a moment and it was a while ago, but she couldn’t pretend she didn’t recognize the tune. And yet…the far away composition of that small place at the base of his neck as it curved into his shoulder played a distracting countermelody and, she imagined it might turn into something if she waited.

Unaccompanied the words spilled-over as water from the bathtub tap cascaded down her out-stretched toes. Beatrice spread the five toes of her right foot apart letting the water skim through them changing the song. But she struggled to separate those of her left. Her toes disputed out of conditioning - an external reflection. Left brain logic spreading wide upon command heard the splashing of the man-made waterfall to its own sensible conclusion. But her right brain was reckless and insubordinate. It knew things it could not yet, be convinced to share. It listened, to the rhythmic tones played by water timpani drums beating tribal variations of musical mathematics that resonated with spirit but wasn’t even on speaking terms with the conscious mind. It was fluent in vibration and could make Niagara Falls flow backwards. Bea banged at the door, but her right brain only giggled in response. She would journey alone, at least for now.

Just then a light crashed through Beatrice as Kesey entered the room flipping the switch on the fluorescents filling them all with the B flat buzz of luminosity. Behind him Babbs looked around with great intensity and Gretchen Fetchin the Slime Queen stood dazed but loyal. Fresh from a night on the ground outside, Gretchen's hair glistened with morning dew. There were still a few leaves in her hair and a sprig of parsley clutched in her hands – which had always been clamped in her hands.

Kesey spoke:
"Have you seen my shoes? I can't find my shoes."


Opening: Wendy Meyers....Continuation: Anonymous

21 comments:

Sarah Laurenson said...

Some beautiful poetic phrases. Sorry, but I'm lost. Might be that Monday morning thing, but I have no idea what's going on. I think I'll go back to bed.

Evil Editor said...

I'm not hearing cosmic music. I recommend staying out of Will's stash and setting your story on planet Earth.

The third paragraph has to go. The second needs to be cut back. And there are way too many music references. A couple might be clever, but when they're being forced in at this rate it becomes annoying.

150 said...

A READING from the book of Strunk, Section V, Part 16:

Clarity is not the prize in writing, nor is it always the principal mark of a good style. There are occasions when obscurity serves a literary yearning, if not a literary purpose, and there are writers whose mien is more overcast than clear. But since writing is communication, clarity can only be a virtue. And although there is no substitute for merit in writing, clarity comes closest to being one. Even to a writer who is being intentionally obscure or wild of tongue we can say, "Be obscure clearly! Be wild of tongue in a way we can understand!"

Your first step might be to fix the punctuation issues. "Drug-induced" should be hyphenated; "spilled over" should not. There shouldn't be commas after "and" in those two sentences in paragraph two; there should be a comma after "unaccompanied" in paragraph three.

But mostly you're not telling me anything I can understand.

wendy said...

Okay, just to set the record straight before anyone else piles on. Although I completely understand how some might come to such a conclusion I do not do drugs. I did do a few drugs a very long time ago, but not a drop since I grew up, believe it or not. ;)

Jennifer said...

Agreed, it's overwritten and muddled. So rewrite it with attention to clarity, and cut the many musical references, yes, but save most of this:

"And yet…the far away composition of that small place at the base of his neck as it curved into his shoulder played a distracting countermelody and, she imagined it might turn into something if she waited."

Especially the "she imagined..."

Think small doses of poetic prose or it all gets lost.

Dave F. said...

SO many things to delete. Half the words. Half the words. Just so much temptation. I cannot resist. You have such great ideas but too many words.

First, the opening line is great but the second sentence distracts. The sole purpose of "naughty" words is to attract attention. Sometimes, a "naughty" word is like a sparkling diamond on a well-worn and rough hand. Other times, a naughty word is like a zit on your nose before the prom. That said...
"Your drug induced coma is the anteroom to my reality." is an excellent opening line. It has power. It doesn't need anything else to attract attention. It doesn't need dressing up. It's that good. Let it stand alone.

You do the same thing here. Create a great image and then interupt it with a second image. In this case, you need to keep the dancing images together. Keep "with his pharmaceutical crush of middle school proportions long after the prized introductions were over" for later. Nice image, but not in the second paragraph...
He wanted to go on dancing with his pharmaceutical crush of middle school proportions long after the prized introductions were over. And, Beatrice heard cosmic music.

I might have picked at "It was only for a moment and it was a while ago, but she couldn’t pretend she didn’t recognize the tune." But that could be voice. The superposition of two time images might be a quirk of the character I don't know about. This is like "It was the best of times. It was the worst of time." the time concepts of "moment" and "while" are opposites. If it's quirky then leave it. If it's just there because it a great phrase and sounds good, bump it to someplace else. Why? Well again, the music imagery should be kept compact and it can use a follow through. If you only kept everything after the "but" then the musical imagery would be compacted. If she's tripping on some drug, which I only picked up on after your comment, she would fixate on particular sensory item - music.

And one last thing. I think that this:
the far away composition of that small place at the base of his neck as it curved into his shoulder played a distracting countermelody
and this:
and, she imagined it might turn into something if she waited
say exactly the same thing to the reader. This is a very hard thing to see in writing. It's why I edit 5, 10, and 20 times, over and over. I find I write comparisons in twos and threes and sometimes, one mention or one phrase is enough.

I'm not going to touch the third paragraph. I don't do feet massages, ever. {wink}. And I am the last one you want to ask about drug trips. Never did that stuff. Never will.

freddie said...

I . . . I don't understand. It's confusing to me to have music metaphors for visuals, unless the character has synaesthesia.

wendy said...

Though unintentional, instead of being "obscure clearly" as Strunk encourages I am clearly being obscure today. Sorry.

The character is not on drugs. When I said "drop" I was thinking of alcohol which I consider a drug.

Thank you, Dave, for all your wonderful assistance with this piece, especially in the pre-existence(that's pre EE, of course). Cut Cut Cut! I hear you.

I had to look up freddie's reference. BTW, I thought everyone saw music and smelled textures. Seriously, who knew?

Dave F. said...

I wanted to add something not entirely related to Wendy's opening.

Between Christmas and New Years I finished a 2000 word story and set it aside when relatives visited. I went back to edit because I know never to trust my first set of drafts. I looked OK to me then but today, I found three places where I changed a character's name from "Bob" to "Pierre"... It was supposed to be "Frank." That was bad.

I also found exactly the stuff I pointed out in this opening. Similes and metaphors split apart, two mentions of the same thing a couple sentences apart, unnecessary detail. I find that if I lay a story aside for a week or ten days, then I can see problems I missed. I taught myself to see these type of problems in my writing.

And some stories I edit every two weeks for a year. Don't let that discourage you from writing.

wendy said...

Okay, I tried again. Anyone up to another go?

“Your drug induced coma is the anteroom to my reality. You stupid a--”

That is exactly what Beatrice said to Will the last time she ever saw him. He wanted to go on dancing. Without mercy her impulsive words spilled over in her mind. Water from the bathtub tap cascaded through her outstretched toes and the far away composition of that small place at the base of his neck as it curved into his shoulder had her imagining it might turn into something if she had waited.

Beatrice reached for a towel that hung on the hook beside her bath, smelling it first to see if it was time for a new one. She always smelled things or listened to know their nature. Eyes were an unreliable consort, not to be trusted on important issues, especially those of the heart or those of unknown origin in the refrigerator. A towel’s progress toward ripe could easily be monitored with a daily sniff, bypassing the left brain while respectfully asking permission of the right, granted or denied without fanfare…or argument. Fluent in vibration, the right brain knew things it could not yet be convinced to share. It could make Niagara Falls flow backwards while gently commanding obedience. The left brain looked on with envy, stomping around demanding pictures out of puzzle pieces instead of the other-way-round. Beatrice would journey alone, at least for now.


Thanks All!! Lurkers come forth and be counted among the living !

Joanna said...

I miss the cosmic music vs. countermelody of Will's neck from the first version. I had to read it twice but I loved the sound of it the first time and thought got what you were saying the second time. (What I got was that she has a higher calling of some sort that she doesn't understand; Will doesn't fit with this, but he is right there and might turn out to be interesting if she sticks around. Was that what you meant?) I don't understand whether she delivered her parting words on the dance floor or in the bathtub in either version. And the opening sentence definitely suggested to me that he speaker either lived ina drug-induced haze or was trying to upset or shock Will by implying that she was. If what you mean is that she has a natural intuitive multisensory awareness that others can't achieve except with hallucinogens, could you say so a little more clearly?

I tend to speedread inadvertently, and this writing stopped me cold. Both frustrating and satisfying.

chelsea said...

You have some really fanciful images here but I feel like I need something to happen. Basically when I read this I feel like I'm being told how cool the narrator is, and when I'm told how cool a narrator is, I feel a bit force fed, as though said narrator is trying to trick me. I'd much rather be shown how interesting a person is over the course of the novel, rather than have it presented to me up front where I am expected to just accept that the narrator is super insightful and fantastic.

I mean, what exactly is going on in this passage? The character is taking a bath and thinking about things. Water, music, etc. Just thinking. I feel as though this kind of writing would be really effective and moving as poetry. As poetry it makes sense. However, as the beginning of a novel it makes me think: Why am I been shown a character who's sitting in the bathtub just thinking about things?

How far in the past did the narrator tell Will: "Your drug induced coma is the anteroom to my reality"?

If it was very recent, would you consider actually starting with that scene? That way you can keep the opening lines and explain the narrator's feelings about Will as they happen, rather than in back story (Ha! the topic of the week!) Some of the narrator's thoughts could be worked into dialogue with Will, rather than handed to the reader all at once, on a sampler platter of so many different ideas it is nearly impossible to know which to pick up first.

Stick and Move said...

Kudos to anonymous for the awesome continuation. Clever work to bring in Gretchen Fetchin the Slime Queen. The Merry Pranksters are gleeful, no doubt.

Brenda Bradshaw said...

I'm like Sarah. I had no idea what I read with the original version. Then again, I slept until 3pm today.

I read the rewritten version and I'm still not 100% sure of what I'm reading, thus I can't give you any decent opinion and/or constructive criticism. Sorry.

chelsea said...

Also, Dave: hilarious side story.

I, too, find that putting a story aside for a bit and coming back to it reveals countless problems I didn't see the first time around. "This is bloody brilliant" turns to "Oh my god, this is crap." But such is life. And the stories (one hopes) end up better for it.

RW Glover said...

"And yet…the far away composition of that small place at the base of his neck as it curved into his shoulder played a distracting countermelody and, she imagined it might turn into something if she waited."

"A towel’s progress toward ripe could easily be monitored with a daily sniff"

"There were still a few leaves in her hair and a sprig of parsley clutched in her hands – which had always been clamped in her hands".


Some nice stuff. You have an inventive mind. The kind of woman that obsesses about small places at the base of men necks, ruminates on the ripeness of towels, and lies around with dew on her hair clutching a sprig of parsley is clearly someone I would like to know more about. If fact she sounds quite a bit like a few of my close friends. Unfortunately I never got what I wanted from this piece -- clear and interesting information or dialogue about these intriguing situations or objects. I agree with Sarah, this feels like poetry not prose. If you are aspiring to mass market sales this stream of consciousness routine is a hard sell.
Most of us have the kind of brains that, after the first odd word diversion just zone out, or become fretful looking for the story. Your ability to see and hear things differently will be a huge asset in many aspects of plotting, description and dialogue but your task is to figure out a way to make an interesting or amusing translation of your vision to appeal to the average joe just looking to see just what happens next to those intriguing, dewy and incredibly tenacious hands holding the parsley twig.

BuffySquirrel said...

He wanted to go on dancing with his pharmaceutical crush of middle school proportions long after the prized introductions were over.

See, the trouble for me is I can stop and stare at a line like this one for hours, without ever coming to any understanding of what it means.

RW Glover said...

Whoops, I just realized the a parsley bit was the continuation. Still --there were other useful moments in the original.

My husband just came home and asked how my day was. I told him, "OK honey, but my right brain kept giggling all day. That got me an interesting look!

wendy said...

The most interesting thing about this little thought experiment for me is the unexplained and unexpected resonance the piece carried. Of course, that is not enough and I need to work harder.

Don’t believe me on the resonance issue? Then ask yourself this: How did “back story” become “front story” on this blog over the past few days? There is a taste of renewal in this particular: Huh? I can feel it in yesterday’s Q & A. Or maybe that’s just Pan throwing banana peels in my path.

Thank you all. I found out the line about the guys neck seems to work for many of you. So, I will begin there and try again. You’re the best.

BuffySquirrel said...

It's not so much that I don't believe as that I don't understand....

wendy said...

Without a doubt I really need to get to work on that "be obscure clearly" thing Strunk mentions.

What you may find amusing (or not) is that I had that very quote printed on my business cards...where I can keep an eye on it in case it tries to escape.

Thanks for the kind nudges Buffy et al. Lord, I have a lot of work to do!