Tuesday, June 16, 2009

New Beginning 650

A creep sort of float-walked across the coffee shop to Scar’s table and sat down. His head never moved from looking at Scar. He was wearing them dark sunglasses like that jerk in his underwear and socks sliding around on TV all the time. His baseball cap was whiter’n Tinkerbell’s butt and his teeth were black and white like a checkerboard.

“Too fucked up for this black man. Get your Czechsylvania ass away from me.”

He sat and Scar couldn’t let him show him up. “Fine, but palms on the flat.” It put its hands on the table. Ten rings of dull grey, fingers just a jerking all around.

He pinned a waitress with his index. “Hey, java bunny. Two. Black.” They sat not talking till she came back and gave ‘em each a mug and he had to grab the other one and tell her not to give his hot beverage away to no one never.

“Two coffees? That’s silly.”

He didn’t look at her. “Silly is the new cool.”

So she rolled her eyes and bunny-hopped away, and Scar sat there with a coffee in each hand not looking at her. He sipped from one cup and then the other and not-looked at the creep jerking on the other side of the table.

He gave himself one of them grins. He wasn't sure, yet, if this was meant to be some kinda noir, or urban fantasy, or some fucked-up futuristic cyberpunk shit, but he guessed it didn't matter.

Oh yeah, he said to himself, if we can go through the whole book like this, not-talking and not-looking and drinking two coffees, we're gonna make literary fiction for sure. We're talking Booker Prize for this black man.

Opening: Kelly Mitchell.....Continuation: Steve


Evil Editor said...

The tone is good but not the clarity. For instance:

In the first three paragraphs "he" refers to the guy who isn't Scar. From then on I can't tell whether "he" is Scar or the other guy.

If the other guy is a he, why is he an "it" as well?

Is His head never moved from looking at Scar better than His eyes never moved from looking at Scar?

The Tinkerbell's butt analogy is amusing, though usually an analogy is supposed to make something more clear.

While any colors may be used for a checkerboard pattern, an actual checkerboard is black and red, unless it's some fancy-shmancy or foreign brand that Scar isn't likely to have seen.

Does he have ten rings on his fingers or is that just what his fingers look like?

writtenwyrdd said...

I'm sorry, this was difficult to follow, and there were way too many "likes" in that first couple paragraphs. This is interesting but not yet clear enough. It's a case of the character's speech distracting from what the meaning is. If you look at the last opening of mine the minions hashed, I used far less slang than you do here, and it was pretty universally disliked.

From the vague "a creep" (is a creep some sort of paranatural critter or just a creepy person?) and "sort of float-walked" (again unclear) to the blackand white teeth, it's a jumble of images and impressions in a voice that's difficult to parse.

Try trimming along the lines of

[The] creep walked across the coffee shop to Scar's table and sat down. He was wearing dark sunglasses and his teeth were black and white like a checkerboard."

I'd still clarify that checkerboard image, and explain what the speaker is talking about wit a word or two in the speech. If it's a vampire approaching, you could for example say, "Get your Czechsylvania vampire ass away from me." Wouldn't take much to fill in the reader, which you need to do immediately here or the reader can't ground themselves in the scene.

BuffySquirrel said...

It seems to me that the creep did show Scar up, which makes Scar either incredibly unobservant or just weak.

Interesting opening, altho' I spent too much time wondering about the colour of Tinkerbell's butt (is it ever specified?) and yet I still don't know how white the cap is.

"His head never moved from looking at Scar" didn't work for me--heads don't look, and in any case it seems a clunky way of saying the creep kept his gaze fixed on Scar (if that's what's meant).

Also, I think in "He sat" you need to specify it's the creep who sits.

Steve said...

I can only echo EE - the tone is excellent; edgy, energetic, and distinctive. But (as you might guess, from the second paragraph of the continuation) I'm not wholly clear on what's going on.

I suspect we might be setting the author quite a technical challenge here - improving the overall clarity without sacrificing that strong individual tone in the process. Well, that's us readers for you; we're demanding so-and-sos.

_*Rachel*_ said...

Who's doing what? I get that there are two people at a table, but which one is scar? There are some pronoun problems, too; I can't tell who all the "he's" are referring to.

Despite Tinkerbell's favorite word (she probably meant "donkey," but the word's changed), the children's books never mention it.

Evil Editor said...

Unchosen continuations:

The waitress looked up from under his index and promised to do better. She had seen the size of his glossary.


He drank his neighbor's coffee and ate his donut. The java bunny looked at him in disgust and him in pity and left.

He looked at him and spat. "Stupid thing, learn to use pronouns properly."

He smirked back. "Bad pronoun usage is the new cool."


"Whatever," Jessica Rabbit said with a roll of her eyes and sashayed away, muttering under her breath. "Overgrown pussy cat."

Scar pretended he hadn't heard her. It was easier that way. "So what's your fiddle got to play, stranger?"

The creep leaned in closer over the mirrored surface. "Something to your advantage, old man."

The coffee did its damnedest to jump back out of Scar's gullet at the sound of that cold, unmistakably feminine voice. His nose twitched at the distinct smell of apples. And poison. The creep bared her teeth in a gapped smile and went on.

"Some of us were thinking about old stories. Thinking perhaps it's time for a change, time for somebody else to come out on top."

Scar stared the old crone down a moment - then with one paw he shoved a cup o' joe at her.

"Go on," he said.

--Sarah from Hawthorne

"Yeah, whatever," the waitress said, watching her tip vanish. She winced at the loud braying. "And that's a donkey, not an ass..."


“Oh yeah? And what’s the new silly? Tom Cruise with checkerboard teeth and a fairy’s ass on his head?” The waitress snapped her fingers and walked away like a plus-sized model on a catwalk.

His jaw hit the table, chewing tobacco dripping out of it like a leaky engine. Everyone in the bar laughed at him and he blushed like a prison bitch.


Dave F. said...

This reminds me of the opening to "Bonfire of the Vanities" which starts off with a conversation between two black men in the audience of the Mayor's town meeting. I like it. However, I have a few suggestions.

Don't conditionalize actions with words like "sort of." You can say he half walked, half skipped, half ran, half slithered but please don't use the conditional "sort of."

In the first sentence you say "sat down" at Scar's table. In the third paragraph you begin with "He sat." And why do you call him "A" creep rather than "The" creep.

I don't understand this image: "like that jerk in his underwear and socks sliding around on TV" ... I can't place that TV show. My lack of TV viewing, not yours or your character's fault.

I also don't understand "Black and white Teeth like a checkerboard." I've seen gold teeth, gapped teeth, one tooth on top and four missing below, and really ugly false teeth, but not checkerboard. This might just be me.

Also, if I put my palms flat on anything, I can't move my fingers except for a flat wiggle. Now that might be because I've played piano and organ from 8 years old and was always taught to keep my forearms, wrists and palms flat... Also I don't understand "grey rings." Again, this might just be me. I grew up sheltered.

I also don't appreciate "whiter than Tinkerbell's butt." The last time I seriously thought about Peter Pan was 2004 and that was because of the movie "Finding Neverland." Before that was1960 when Mary Martin played Peter Pan on TV (I had to look it up.)

Who is the black man? No one is ever "black," they is just chocolate, high yellow, coffee, beige, olive-skinned, and other words for all those in between shades. Cross reference "Yellowman" a play by Dael Orlandersmith.

I think that "tell her not to give his hot beverage away to no one never" should be a line of dialog. Something like "What you doing java bunny? You never give a man's beverage to another man (or woman)."

The opening can still be just as edgy with these changes. Think about something like this revision. I put my words in [brackets]. I don't like using "was" too much. Not that I don't use it, but I look for it when I edit and try to reword and remove "was."

[The] creep [sashayed] across the coffee shop to Scar’s table, wearing them dark sunglasses like that jerk in his underwear and socks sliding around on TV. His [gaze] never moved from Scar. [Scar reacted (sneered, jeered, rolled his eyes)] to [the man's] whiter’n Tinkerbell’s butt baseball cap and black an' white checkerboard teeth.

“[You] too fucked up for this black man. Get your Czechsylvania ass away from me.” The creep sat. Scar couldn’t let [his dissing go without note]. “Fine, but palms on the flat.”

Creep guy put its hands on the table. Ten rings of dull grey, fingers just a jerking all around. He pinned a waitress with his index. “Hey, java bunny. Two. Black.” [Then] sat not talking till she came back and gave ‘em each a mug. He didn’t look [up at the waitress as he took a cup in each of his hands].

["What you doing java bunny? You never give a man's beverage to another man, no way, never."]

“Two coffees? That’s silly.”

“Silly is the new cool, [babe].”

[I think Scar should say something rude to the creep like stick something where the sun don't shine and go away. Or go "F" yourself moron... or stand up and say "I ain't sitting here with no a-hole." They obviously aren't going to have a friendly conversation.]

Evil Editor said...

I don't understand this image: "like that jerk in his underwear and socks sliding around on TV"

The image refers to Tom Cruise in Risky Business:


While Cruise does wear sunglasses at one point in the movie, he doesn't wear them while sliding around in his socks and underwear, so that may need fixing.

The scene has frequently been copied in advertising, including several ads for Guitar Hero in recent years starring athletes and basketball coaches.

Dave F. said...

Ouch! I missed that reference. I know it well, too. I shouldn't have missed it but I did.

BuffySquirrel said...

I didn't get that image either but figured it was something iconic that hadn't reached here yet.

ril said...

Well, that's a relief. I thought it was talking about me*...

*The TV broke, by the way.

Xenith said...

I'd kill the description in the
first paragraph. Get to the story instead. Also gets rid of the His/He/His thing you have going. If you have more than two consecutive sentences starting with He/His, then you have a problem. In this case, straight description with no action. Description that relies on an outside reference -- twice. Once you can get away with. Twice in a row? Gah.

The first paragraph reads differently to the rest. Added later? Maybe kill it and redo in the later voice. Or just kill it. Could you start with the fourth paragraph instead? The one that starts He pinned a waitress with his index.

Who is the point of view character here? Given the voice, *someone* is telling this story.

You could take some of that description from the first lines and use it clear up the lack of dialogue attributions & ambiguous pronouns.

Adam Heine said...

Another echo from the plague (murder? malevolence?). I love the voice. I have no idea what's going on. The continuation was hilarious.

freddie said...

I found this hard to follow, and I didn't like the line "Silly is the new cool." It screamed wanna-be Elmore Leonard to me. But overall I liked the tone and I would be willing to read on for a couple of more paragraphs just to be on the safe side.

I loved the continuation.

Kelly said...

Thanks for the comments, especially the confusion over pronouns. I loved the continuations.
The voice, obviously(?), comes from a clinically insane person. EE - he has little, if any, clarity. His sense of reality is unstable, so 'he' can be 'it', (vampire).

Kelly said...

Oh, yeah. I found the Elmore Leonard reference interesting since I read about 4 pages of one book and hated it.