Friday, May 15, 2009

New Beginning 639

Shit, last cigarette. Wonder if the CVS on 8th and E is still open… As I flick the butt into the gutter, the realization of how screwed I am hits me. Of course, there’s no one but myself to blame for this. Once again waiting for a miracle, and when it didn’t happen, I act surprised. As if this hasn’t happened before…or rather, as if I hadn’t laid the groundwork to set myself up for this before now. “The definition of crazy is going through the same actions and expecting different results.” That’s an apt description of the past three years, Dr. Pruitt, and completely unhelpful. Time to take stock of my situation, maybe that will keep my mind occupied for a few minutes, push back immediate reality for a few minutes at least. First the good news: I have 165 dollars in my wallet, a credit card, a debit card and my driver’s license. Now the touch of gray on that silver lining: I’m not graduating like I told everyone, I’m effectively homeless and friendless, and I’ve been a colossal disappointment to the three people who matter most in my life. See point three (or two or four, depending on how you count). A fine mess I’ve gotten myself into this time, Ollie. I doubt anyone would get that bit. Not because I’m the only one who’s ever watched early twentieth century cinema, but because Ollie's the one who actually delivered the line. Plus, I've made it self-referential, and I intentionally used the oft-misquoted “fine mess” instead of “nice mess” which is kind of my ironic meta-commentary on the futility of lasting pop culture—wait a minute. Christ, I had this same conversation with myself last time I ran out of smokes. Dr. Pruitt’s right. Something’s gotta change. Forget CVS. I’m going to 7-11.


Opening: AZ.....Continuation: Blogless_Troll

19 comments:

Evil Editor said...

Unchosen continuation:


Who knew graduating from Kindergarten would be such a hassle?

--Khazar-Khum

Evil Editor said...

Get rid of:

Time to take stock of my situation, maybe that will keep my mind occupied for a few minutes, push back immediate reality for a few minutes at least.

People occasionally take stock, but they seldom have reason to announce that they're going to take stock.

I'd also get rid of:

See point three (or two or four, depending on how you count).

It's not clear what it refers to.


Otherwise, I thought it was well-done. If the speaker really is crazy, you should use the continuation.

Adam Heine said...

Brilliant continuation.

Is the lack of paragraph breaks a copy/paste error? If it's intentional, then I'd request adding paragraph breaks. The giant block of text scares me.

Anonymous said...

the content was even scarier. the thought of 100K more like that was not enticing. it reads like the author's character sketch homework and I'm afraid it's one of those things where the story really starts on page 97.

Dave F. said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
_*Rachel*_ said...

Don't stomp on my poor eyes, entice them! In a literary sense. Cut it a bit, put in paragraph breaks, you know.

Probably THE BEST writing gift I've ever recieved: a notebook a jar with 365 writing prompts. My teacher ROCKS.

Dave F. said...

I had too many mistakes in that comment... Here it is well revised.

I'm with the other minions about the paragraph structures. If you're going to write crazy -- a rant or a rave or a monologue -- then give the reader a break. A slight pause will help. It's like releasing the tension so the reader can take a breath, then you can return and build the tension higher.

Think of waves on a beach getting bigger and bigger and a swimmer not paying attention. All of a sudden the swimmer looks up and sees the really big wave and knows he or she is in deep trouble. The big wave takes him or her off their feet and slams their body into the rocks under their feet. now it's a struggle to breathe and get out of the water. Or drown and get washed away.

chelsea said...

I found some tense and tone issues in this piece that distracted from what would otherwise be a very enticing voice. For example:

"Wonder if the CVS on 8th and E is still open.. As I flick the butt . . ."

The first line sounds as if the character is talking to him/herself. The next line he/she is clearly talking to the reader.

You shift tones with "waiting for a miracle, and when it didn't happen, I act surprised." Maybe try: "waiting for a miracle, and when it doesn't happen, I act surprised."

"As if this hasn't happened before" is made redundant by the line before it and the line after it.

"I doubt anyone would get that bit" might insult some readers.

Otherwise, I like the wry voice, and the way the character addresses people in his/her mind. A little tweak in the tone and a few paragraph breaks and I will definitely read on.

And yes, the continuation was freakin fantastic.

BuffySquirrel said...

Speaking in the most general terms--and preparing to be hit over the head by various minions--if the narrator is female, it's okay for them to internalise blame for what's gone wrong; if they're male, they're more likely to externalise it.

The bit about letting everyone down sounded especially female, although much of the rest didn't, hence sqrls are confused. And a confused sqrl is a not-reading-on sqrl.

Azreal said...

Thank you all for the comments. The continuation was hilarious.

I have been reading a lot of Spenser novels lately. My incorrect quotation is similar to how Robert Parker quotes it, and instead of doing the research (bad minion!) I followed his lead.

The lack of paragraph breaks was intentional, but on a second reading and the comments on the choice, it will be better to break it up.

to Evil Editor: I do think to myself more or less in this manner, but you're right.

to chelsea: I originally had the line "Shit, last cigarette. Wonder if the CVS on 8th and E is still open" in italics to try and differentiate between my thoughts and addressing the reader. Would that have helped? I guess I forgot to do that when I emailed His Evilness.

to Anon: It's not 100k of this, but thinking about what you said, I probably do have too much of it.

to BuffySquirrel: It's been a long day for me, and now I'm a bit confused. When you say internalise versus externalise, what exactly do you mean? I'm a guy, and I do tend to internalise, in that I don't talk to people about blaming myself for things that have gone wrong through my own actions. Did you mean it's more likely for a guy to talk to someone about his situation? I just want to clarify. Confusion is certainly not the goal.

To everyone: Thanks again for all the constructive criticism! When I've got some free time to work on it, I will clean it up, tweak it and such, and play again! It seems the general consensus

McKoala said...

I liked the tone and content, but it was a bit of a mega para without a pause for breath. However, given that I think it's well done, I'm sure you had your reasons.

A shout out to BT for a fine continuation!

Adam Heine said...

Generally (and I think this is what the Squirrel meant), internalize means to blame oneself. Externalize means to blame others.

It is more typical for women to internalize and men to externalize (I remember playing video games with my brother and sister as a kid - my sister got mad at herself for dying, my brother and I blamed the crappy controller), but "more typical" doesn't mean "always."

BuffySquirrel said...

Adam is right :). Women blame themselves; men blame external factors.

As he says (and I said), it is only "in general". But in the absence of concrete information re: the narrator's gender, it's necessary to fall back on stereotypes (that being what they're for....).

sylvia said...

I presumed the speaker was male and he sounded right to me - I think a gender split at that point is overgeneralisation.

For me the issue was simply that you said things and then said them again. I think if you cut about this right down, it would be much stronger.

Example of the first paragraph, trimmed:

Shit, last cigarette. Wonder if the CVS on 8th and E is still open…
I flick the butt into the gutter,
Once again waiting for a miracle, and when it didn’t happen, I act surprised. “The definition of crazy is going through the same actions and expecting different results.” That’s an apt description of the past three years, Dr. Pruitt, and completely unhelpful.

Azreal said...

To Adam and BuffySquirrel: I understand now. The people who know me would certainly call me atypial, but you both did say in general, and bring up good points regarding unclear MC gender. It so happens that in this particular instance, the character (a semi-fictionalized version of myself) really is to blame, as a direct result of conscious decisions he/I made, but I definitely see your point. Thank you again!

Robin S. said...

BT, this continuation is a rolling scream. Glad to see you back in contin. mode.

AZ,

I could like this.

As others have mentioned, I need paragraphs.

And I'm a little bit unfulfilled with all the whining, to be honest - I think it would read better, and you'd actually receive reader empathy, and keep them reading, if you went for wry humor and kept it at that level. Told a story with your tongue in your cheek.

Reads to me like you're going for that, but not quite getting there, because there's still the underlying self-pity thing going on.

Nothing an edit wouldn't take care of!

chelsea said...

Adam, that video game example is PERFECT. Love it.

I felt the narrator was male, but I also read work by "atypical" males (i.e. Chuck Palahniuk) so the internalizing was okay for me.

However, because some people assumed my New Beginning narrator was male (she wasn't!) I went back and read your piece as if the narrator was a female, just to see if that felt okay too. And it did.

This early in the story, I don't mind not knowing. Sometimes it's fun to not be sure, and then be surprised by your assumptions. (Anyone read Written on the Body?)

BuffySquirrel said...

I see too many ungendered first-person narrators to find them interesting any more, lol. Guess I'm jaded!

chelsea said...

Gotcha. I imagine it's quite different reading a story as a submission (rather than learning the gender from the jacket copy). I am curious, since you had such an interesting reason for thinking this narrator was female, why you thought mine (few openings down) was male. Or maybe it was just a default gender thing?