Tuesday, November 03, 2009

New Beginning 699

The staleness of the small room was not yet evident and It was always like this in the morning. Nothing smelled. Not hardly hot nor cold or bright or dull. It just was. Mornings were always new and foreign at least for a moment…seconds, whatever. He was never for sure how long morning innocence lasted. Usually until he opened his eyes paused and took his first eyes wide opened breath. He broke the pause for a moment and took gaze around the room. The yellowed peeling walls with the shit-colored water stain on the ceiling above the defunct wall heater. He looked over at the scuffed wooden nightstand. His cell phone was blinking with messages. In the past his heart would have paced quicker. Now he knew it was most likely nothing. Dregs calling in responses to the different ads he had placed. Like stray dogs sniffing road kill for the first time.

The stench was there now. How long had it taken, two minutes? He looked over at the vomit-encrusted clock with its urine-colored hands. Two o'clock. Same time it always said. They say a broken clock is right two times a day, but his had been right three times yesterday. Maybe it was time to get a new broken clock. The phone screeched like a feral cat facing down another feral cat under a full moon. Let the machine get it.

"Hello? Yeah, I'm callin' about your ad for the dead squirrel? I'd be willin' to go as high as fifteen bucks if it's fresh. Name's Rixi, 555-1127."

Christ, what a way to make a living.



Opening: Paul.....Continuation: Evil Editor

16 comments:

Evil Editor said...

Unchosen continuations:


Brownies were better. The clients were what they were and they liked brownies. Special brownies the color of the wallpaper.

He rubbed his forehead and squinted in the sunlight. Had he eaten the whole batch again?

--Rachel


Why, why, why hadn't he listened when his family told him not to take the job as editor for the Detroit Book Review?

--Khazar-khum

fairyhedgehog said...

I'm much more interested in the adverts he's placed than in the lack of staleness of the room or the morning innocence.

I'd be inclined to start at the yellowed peeling walls. I'd miss out the nightstand, I'd miss out his heart beating faster in the past past and I'd miss out "Now he knew" (but leave in "It was most likely nothing.")

Just my view and I've never had anything published.

I'd like to know about those dregs and the adverts, so I'd read on.

Evil Editor said...

I would delete sentences 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6. Delete "for" in the next sentence. Unless "took gaze" is a known expression somewhere, change it to "looked."

In the interest of symmetry, the three things he sees when he looks around the room should either have verbs with them, or not. In other words, it could read:

He broke the pause for a moment and looked around the room: the yellowed peeling walls with the shit-colored water stain on the ceiling above the radiator; the scuffed wooden nightstand; his cell phone, blinking with messages.

Anonymous said...

Isn't this the first page of Andre Agassi's new tell all? I swear I just read this, excerpted in S.I....

Adam Heine said...

Sorry, but I wouldn't read on. There are a couple of interesting tidbits, which I'll get to in a sec, but mostly I found this opening way too slow.

It doesn't help that it's breaking all the "rules": starts in an empty room; protagonist waking up; protagonist is unnamed for no reason. The grammar and punctuation errors aren't helping either.

That doesn't mean an opening has to have action, or that a story is no good if it breaks these rules, but for me, this one didn't work.

I liked the bit on how he used to feel about cell phone messages; it tells me a little bit about the character and shows me his apathy far better than the first half of the paragraph. I'm interested in what ads he's placing, and the last simile is potentially good (depending on what the ads and dregs actually are).

Anonymous said...

Love the continuation. Advise for the author would be to get there faster, my attention span's too short to stick to a guy explicating dullness.

_*Rachel*_ said...

The ads are interesting; the rest is icky and pretty boring. You could start with something better, like him listening to those phone messages.

Anonymous said...

Something about the first few sentences made me think 1st person POV so I was surprised with the "he" in the 5th line. I found the "shit-colored" jarring too, since the text before that was sort of literary. Overall, it read a bit slow for me.

As for the continuation..OMG, EE, you are TOO funny. Thanks for the laugh.

Dave F. said...

You can do this type of opening if you are writing a "literary story" with dense language. It's got all the hallmarks of great literary writing -- no action and all description, passive "Was" and "Had" verbs. I don't mean that in a nasty or sarcastic way.

Let's reduce this to what it is: A man waking up slowly and looking at his cell phone in a filthy room. He is sad, pathetic, poor and depressed.

One thing I noticed is that the first sentence has a typo -- "It" is capitalized. I would guess that you did a last minute or quickie edit and combined two sentences. Been there. Did that.

Two words are not bland and hurt the opening. SHIT and WHATEVER. In fact, the latter of those two was voted the worst word in the world or most aggravating word in the world or most annoying word in the entire English language. In the public's mind, that word is worse than all others. One final note, thanks to the word "Shit" I back-read "peeling" as "peeing." It's like scatology breeding urophilia. The only thing worse was that Broadway Musical named "Urine Town" that only had one bathroom and everyone sat cross-legged for two hours. Ooops, I digress. Never mind. This went from squalor to Ren and Stimpy flecking the halls with dirty diapers. Ooops, again.

Is the room a character in your story? Does the character living in semi-squalor mean something important? If so, is it critically important? Describe the scene in broad strokes if it is just a location. If the scene is important, then describe it with all sorts of meaningful detail.

How about "brown water stains from the toilet accented the years of yellow tobacco smoke clinging to the walls" ???

I have one more question and it's my old argument (the one that always gets me in trouble) about repetition. Aren't the "dregs" and the "stray dogs" repetitive? The question may not be repetition but emphasis. If these calls are so unimportant, does the reader need two descriptive words or phrases to understand that? When I read those two sentences, I think ahead of the story. I think that one of those calls is important and we're going to get a "But" in the future. The character thinks nothing important was on the phone. Ooo-lala tension, please give us tension.

Kings Falcon said...

This isn't working for me either, but it could. If you can enter the story anywhere other than his waking up it would help you. If you have to start here and sometimes you do have to start with the MC waking up, don't dither around with the rest of it. You have a lot of inertia to get over. While someone doesn't have to shoot a machine gun at him, the hook is too slow.

Why not just start with: 'He glanced at the scuffed nightstand'? I get the sense of his fall from the next line and I'd rather find out why I should care about him than about shit-colored stains.

BuffySquirrel said...

Why is the text so small? My eyes hurt.

Adam Heine said...

Dave wrote: "It's got all the hallmarks of great literary writing -- no action and all description..."

See, that's why I don't read literary fiction.

Xiexie said...

This just moves entirely too slowly. The room's description doesn't add (nor does it subtract) from the action he's going through, and I think that's where this should start.

The yellowed peeling walls with the shit-colored water stain on the ceiling above the defunct wall heater <-- this is all a subject (one noun followed by 3 prepositional phrases), not a sentence.

Evil Editor said...

Unchosen continuations:


Brownies were better. The clients were what they were and they liked brownies. Special brownies the color of the wallpaper.

He rubbed his forehead and squinted in the sunlight. Had he eaten the whole batch again?

--Rachel


Why, why, why hadn't he listened when his family told him not to take the job as editor for the Detroit Book Review?

--Khazar-khum


The phone rang again and vibrated itself off the table onto the carpet of lint. He snapped it up and watched the screen flash.

"Hello," he grumbled.

"Hello," said the voice. "Here is Olga. I vill kleen yor hauz."

He waited for more, but didn't get it. He was sick of making appointments only to have them run away screaming when they saw pile of guano under the bats in the living room. This one sounded pretty tough.

"Ok, Olga. You ok with cockroaches?"

"Yis. Cock roaches," she repeated.

"Rrrrright. Eels in the bathtub?"

"Illz, no problem."

"Ok." Then he asked the question that would make her hang up and he would be alone again. "How do you feel about guano?" He squeezed his eyes shut against the day and tried to make the moment before the click last.

“I hev gas mask and rubber clothings. Iz no problem.”

When he opened his eyes, the shit colored stain looked like sunshine. Gas mask? Oh, yes! He could cancel that other add now too.

“I vill come now, ya?” she was saying.

--Mother (Re)produces

stacy said...

Hey Fairy, you don't have to be a published author to have an opinion. We react as readers, too.

fairyhedgehog said...

Thanks, stacy.