Monday, March 09, 2009

New Beginning 613 (Chapter Opening)

This one guy was a regular, came in early almost every day so he could claim the same stool, two seats in from the front door, away from the afternoon sunlight. He worked at this spa and pool store a few blocks away, standing at the crusty edge of the old part of the city, the netherworld blocks that formed the boundary between gentrification and decay.

These were the battleground blocks, and that was where all the fun was, and one of the reasons was guys like this hairy, oily, pool man meeting up with the incoming gentry in truce places like this netherworld bar.

He’d corner one and wangle them into asking about water conditions, about heat and clean and other things; then he’d hitch himself up, sitting tall on his stool, and he’d start in. “Will there be vaginas in your water? That’s what I always ask ‘em when they come in wonderin’ about what kinda chemicals they need. Vaginas, they suck all the clean outta any water they’re in, so when they’re in there, ya gotta be prepared for nasty, and add your chemicals accordingly, ya know.”

And the polite little gentry guy, he'd just nod and nod.

And there was this one gentry, a little guy with glasses, and when his head finished nodding, he looked up at the pool and spa man and said, "Well . . . I don't know. I'd like to think that sometimes I might share the water with a, uh, vagina or two, you know, once in a while. So, how about this: how about you tell me what chemicals you'd use -- if it was just you, all alone in your pool on a regular, no party night. See, I reckon if I take what you'd use, just for you alone, and back it off a little bit, that'll be perfect for me, 'cause, you know, I'm pretty sure you're the filthiest pussy I'll ever meet."

Opening: Robin S......Continuation: Anon.


writtenwyrdd said...

As a novel beginning this leaves me cold. I wouldn't read this because I dislike this greasy spa salesman so intensely.

On the other hand, you did a great job characterizing him. The implication of all that effort is that your sleazeball is the main character in the events about to unfold.

I am unsure as to genre here. The mention of a 'netherworld' struck me as odd (and too unfortunately punny in relation to the vagina comment) unless this is a paranorma of some kind.

V. Dunn said...

That continuation made it all worthwhile. :-D Hurray for anon!

About the original beginning: The writing seemed quite solid to me. I definitely "saw" the scene.

Unfortunately, what I saw was a lot of filthy crusty hot tubs and a remarkably unlikable character. At this point, unless the cover illo showed zombies tearing a hot tub salesman into bloody chunks, I'd put the book down.

But YMMV. There's lots of very popular books that don't do a darn thing for me (take Thomas Covenant, for example - no hot tubs, but definitely an unlikable main character).

So... Are there zombies?

Dave F. said...

Robin, The third paragraph is excellent. It's gritty nastiness makes me want to read more. It says more about the hot tub man than anything in the first two paragraphs. It's a keeper because he's so passive/aggressively offensive. His rather distasteful monologue is mch better than hairy, oil, greasy, etc...

I think you're trying too hard to create the neighborhood. You give us five descriptive chances: 1) crusty, 2) netherworld (twice), 3) decay, 4) old part, and 5) battleground... Not to mention 1) gentry, 2) gentrification, and 3) fun.

Try something like this (but not as overwritten):
"Seymour Butz's daily exercise consisted of waddling the three blocks from the dirt-encrusted hot tub dealership to what he considered his own, personal barstool at Gypsy's Dew Drop Inn. The place was still semi-fashionable and the customers gave Seymour his mental orgasm of the day."
He’d corner one and wangle them into asking about water conditions,

BTW - A bar on the way I used to drive to work was called "Little Dick's Tavern" and yes, its t-shirts had the bartender looking down his trousers with a frown. Hey, it's only a local watering hole. Or maybe it's named the "Boom-Boom Room" and has a Hawaiian theme (bamboo and fishnets). OR maybe the Can-Can Room in black and red. We used to call those mobile restaurants that serviced construction sites - Choke and Puke Wagons and we used to call diners "Chilled Grease and Smokes." How about "The Swan Dive" that's a good name for a bar. Or "The Bottom of the Barrel" is another one...

Sorry about having such vulgar fun.

acpaul said...

The RN in me shudders at the close proximity of "regular" and "stool" in the opening paragraph.

The visualization was good, but I wouldn't have read past this point, since the greasy salesman is so unlikable as to be a joke.

Whirlochre said...

As a chapter opening, this is explosive. If we're supposed to dislike the hot tub guy, then I do. He has an unashamedly vulgar and misogynistic POV and I pity any of the female characters he's going to encounter.

No probs with the netherworld ref. I didn't associate it with vaginas, but I did notice your second use of the word. 1st time round, it's a neat image. 2nd time round looks like needless repetition. Ditto the 'hot tub' in 'hot tub and sauna'. Sauna will do — save the hot tub for the vagina guy.

Jennifer said...

As a chapter opening, this is extremely effective. Of course I hate they guy--I think that's the point. We're already into the book here, meaning presumably there is at least one character we already like/identify with/are rooting for--that's not what this guy is there for. But he is originally and colorfully drawn and it wouldn't make me put the book down--it would make me keep reading to see what the jerk is going to do/say next.

The second para is weaker to me, the first needs some cleaning up, but the third is a home run.

Evil Editor said...

Unchosen continuation:

The hot tub guy never sold the little gentry guys anything, and they never told him that they were gay. --khazar-khum

Evil Editor said...

As you refer to battleground blocks and truce place, maybe you should replace netherworld block with no-man's land.

Seems like a "truce place" would be located somewhere other than in a battleground. What are the places on the battleground blocks that aren't truce places?

chelsea said...

"But honey do drop in at the Dew Drop Inn."

Hi Robin,

If hadn't read your stuff before I might have been a little put off by the vagina=nasty water claim, but as it was I recognized your voice right away and really enjoyed this. I especially like "the netherworld blocks that formed the boundary between gentrification and decay." What's interesting about your writing is that you can bounce easily from gritty to eloquent, which makes for really good read.

I only had a couple of issues. The first is with the opening paragraph, because I don't know you're talking about a bar until the end of the second paragraph. However, this is a chapter opening, so I'm guessing the previous chapter sets this all up.

My only other issue was with the line: "one of the reasons was guys like this hairy, oily, hot tub man meeting up with the incoming gentry". For whatever reason, "one of the reasons was" didn't sit quite right for me. It almost felt too casual, like something you would say out loud, but that doesn't completely work in writing. Of course, this could just be me!

I get the impression that the guy is trying to freak out the gentry, like he's being over-the-top on purpose. Is this right?

freddie said...

The "netherworld" reference made me think of fantasy/paranormal fiction.

Solid writing, and definitely a strong scene.

Robin S. said...

That continuation is so damn good.

Hi you all,and thanks for the comments!

This hot tub guy is introduced a couple of chapters into the novel. He's a regular at the place which plays a major role in the novel - a bar sitting on the edge of a gentrification process in the old part of a city, in the early
1980's. So he's not a major player in the novel, but he is 'local color', and he's one of the people the 'gentry folk' meet up with when they come waltzing into this barred-window former biker bar, trying to fit in with the people surrounding them - the ones who've been living in the trashed part of the city before the big push to move 'back into town'. It's fun, watching them mix. And that's what the narrator is doing.

I used netherworld (maybe once too often, it looks like) because this world is so different - it feels like fantasy when you're down inside it, if you came in from somewhere else - you feel like an explorer or an anthropologist.

EE, are you saying you think the world netherworld should go?

WW - maybe you'd like it better knowing he's a bit player?

V - glad you saw the scene, even if distasteful!

Dave, I love weird bars - no need to apologize, kid.

AC - he's not in there much, but he's a character that matters later on in the novel.

Whirl - I see what you mean - I double-nethered, and if I keep it, it has to go down to one.

Thanks, Jennifer and Chelsea! I do need to polish those first two paragraphs. I never see this until I sit on what I wrote for a while, or I pop it on EE's. Chelsea, thanks for saying that about the combination of gritty and eloquent working - much appreciated.

Thanks, freddie - it was a strange scene to write, coming from me, but there you go.

freddie said...

I just noticed my avatar in light of this discussion. I don't know whether I amused or offended myself.

Evil Editor said...

According to, "netherworld" means:
1. the infernal regions; hell.
2. the afterworld, or the hereafter.
(Random House)
1. The world of the dead.
2. The part of society engaged in crime and vice:
(American Heritage)

That may explain why some are thinking paranormal. Or perhaps netherworld is a common fantasy term meaning something general, like a place on the outskirts of civilization.

No Man's Land means (besides the military definition):

1. an indefinite or ambiguous area where guidelines and authority are not clear: a no man's land between acceptance and rejection.

2. An area of uncertainty or ambiguity.

3. the ambiguous region between two categories or states or conditions (usually containing some features of both);

That sounds to me more like the area you're describing, but I don't think it's a major problem. It does seem odd to call them the netherworld blocks, and one sentence later call them the battleground blocks. Not that they're contradictory, but why not settle on the best description?

Robin S. said...

Okay, EE - you got me. No Man's Land does fit better, especially with the battleground thing and the bar being a truce place. I just liked netherworld, because to me it sounds like 'neither world', blended.

iago said...

Hm. You could try "hinterland"...

Anonymous said...

Oh great... Dave's comment got me picturing the hot tub guy and the gentry, in the tub. Get it out of my head!

Robin S. said...

Hi iago!

Long time, no sorta see.

writtenwyrdd said...

My apologies for completely missing the "chapter opening" in the title. I imagine that a nasty character in the middle of a book wouldn't feel so in my face. I take back the first bit I said about not reading on because I disliked you well-wrought obnoxious spa salesman.

Rick Daley said...

I like this, you set a vivid tone and have some raunchy humor, of which I am a big fan. I had to read the second paragraph twice. It's a long sentence, and passive (it was like a lot of was was in there ;-)

Now here's some fun though. Change the first sentence to "The hot tub man was irregular" and you think different thoughts when it comes to his stool. Plus it makes the chemicals that much more important, especially looking at the new direction the continuation provided.

V. Dunn said...

Oops! I missed "chapter opening", too! I'm sorry.

Now that I know the hot tub salesman isn't the main character, I'm much happier and can easily appreciate how your descriptive phrases hang together.

I like the words you've used to make the paragraphs extra cringe-worthy - "crusty" "old" "decay" "hairy, oily" "netherworld" "nasty", plus lots of "heat" and "hot" and such. I can almost feel myself sticking to the bar stool. Ew... ;-)

I'm not a hundred percent convinced, however, that the second paragraph is really necessary. I think it could be cut right out. You don't need to tell us this is where the fun is - you're showing us already. The third paragraph (now becoming the second) could start with "That hairy, oily, hot tub man would corner one of the incoming gentry and wangle them into..."

fairyhedgehog said...

I got a bit confused about where we were in the first paragraph but that's probably just me. The words 'regular' and 'stool' weren't enough clues for me.

I like khazar-khum's continuation!

Neelloc said...

Robin, Anon. 'p0wn3d' you, as the kids say...
I agree that perhaps you could tighten your descriptions a bit, but keep your lovely voice. I had a picture of the bar as standing in a war-torn ruin, although I know that's not what you're getting at.
On the other hand, I can just about smell the repulsive spa salesman! :)

Robin S. said...

Thanks, you all. Just popping on quickly -during the day - that's all I can do - to say I'm taking note of what did and didn't work for you.

And EE, I thought I sent a comment last night - but maybe it didn't get through - that I see what you mean about netherworld - I think of it as one letter short of "neither world" which this is.

That said, I see what you mean about deciding on a word/idea and sticking to it. I either have to pick netherworld or battleground.
If I keep battleground (so I can keep 'truce place') - then no man's land, rather than netherworld, would be all right. Right?