Tuesday, October 05, 2010

New Beginning 790

I could hear the fear in my breathing - jagged and sporadic. My lungs screamed for oxygen, and my muscles fought back as I encountered cramps in succession throughout my legs. My brain was wailing in pain, trying to plea bargain with my heart; begging for my legs to stop running, if only for a moment. However, my heart refused this task because I was searching - in the barren darkness of the underground tunnels - for him.

Confused and disoriented, I frantically turned without thinking down another hallway almost entirely devoured by the darkness. The acrid odors previously stinging my nose began to subside as the stale, thick air began to thin, making breathing easier. I continued to run faster than my body wanted; because I knew, I was going to lose the love of my life. Run Carrie, I could hear him say in my head, his voice as smooth as silk was quietly tickling my thoughts. I'm coming, I said without words, and continued pushing myself to run harder as my vision became blurry from tears. Tears of fear, anguish, and love.

The ache was jagged and sporadic, like a pounding in my brain. My eyes were tearing from the fearing, water swirling down a drain. The starkness of the darkness, blackness bringing on the slackness-- courage failing, and my wailing, to my love (whom I was hailing), was the foment of my to'ment, like a beating from a cane.

As I scrambled through the cavern-- dank and smoky, like a tavern-- I espied a glowing fire, at my level, only higher. Up a staircase; through a doorway, like a Dane escaping Norway, ducking ceiling; leaping chasm, 'till one final frightful spasm, sent me sprawling and a-bawling, to the cold unyielding floor.

And then, finally, did I see, like a ship far out at sea, a lone candle in the dim, held up by a hand quite slim: pale whiteness like fine marble, hair of gold, and eyes a-sparkle. T'was my love, my one-and-only! There he stood, alone and lonely. By my side, he bent a knee, and these words he spake to me:

“Where the hell's the circuit breaker?”

Opening: Natbagel.....Continuation: Sean


Evil Editor said...

Unchosen continuations:

Stop laughing! my vision blubbered in anguish. My thoughts rejoined: we can't help it, we're ticklish. You guys want to stop wasting oxygen on crying and laughing? my lungs gasped; I'm trying to breathe here. Everybody shaddup, my brain wailed; how you expect me to think of another angle to use on this heart creep with all that racket? My heart taunted: Nyah, nyah, I'll show all of you who's running things around here, I'll go into arrest.

Run Carrie, run my dearest, my love - save me! Hello? Hello? Anybody in there? Helloooooo.....

--Paul Penna

I giggled from the tickling. I didn't have tears. That was the pig blood mixed with sweat. And the stink of bat pooh, don't get me started. I hate Prom Night. Same old thing every time. It never changes. The kid playing my game should go to bed. It's 3 a.m. and he's been running me up and down the tunnels all night.


I pressed on, my face wet and my eyes dry from the tears. Every part of my body wanted me to stop, wanted me to slow down, but I couldn't. The pain now would be only temporary. Finally, I reached the next stop, and the subway came to a stop. Panting, I slowed with it, and with what little strength I had left in my arms, I hoisted myself up onto the platform. Whoever said someone couldn't keep up with a moving subway, clearly wasn't from Kenya. The guards who had tried to stop me hadn't stood a chance.

Hands on my knees, I tried to catch my breath. The second the subway doors opened, I took off through them again. My heart rose and fell with each passenger I scanned. Where was he? There was no way that he would have gotten off at this stop. It wasn't anywhere near the SoHo And then, when my body, and my heart were about to give up hope, I spotted a familiar handlebar mustache.

"Crepe man!" I called, my face lighting up instantly. He looked so different without his cart. So strangely ordinary. He sighed.

"Carrie, you know I appreciated your business, but my answer is still no. It's a family recipe, and not for sale" His voice was as rich and glorious as I remembered. Just like the syrup on his delicious crepes.

"It's okay, I understand now" I explained. "Which is why I've decided to move with you!" I smiled widely, my heart nearly bursting in my chest. The beauty of the compromise was enough to bring the Crepeman to tears.


Evil Editor said...

First of all, there's no need to describe tunnels as underground.

This is way overdone. Get rid of all the body parts fighting among themselves. The whole thing can be written in two sentences:

I could hear the fear in my breathing as I frantically searched the barren darkness of the tunnels, my vision blurring with tears. I was losing the love of my life.

You may not like those sentences, but try to condense it to three or four sentences that you do like, knowing that every additional sentence means another batch of readers giving up on the story.

Anonymous said...

I think you've overdone it in order to make us really feel the scene, but the overwriting takes us really, really far away from the scene. Tickling my thoughts was probably the worst. But I like the because I was searching--in the underground (minus hyperbolic adjectives)-for him.

Anonymous said...


Best continuation ever!

What the Evil One said, and furthermore:

When you're writing action scenes, you don't want the language to interfere with moving the action forward.

Actually that's true when you're writing any kind of scene, but especially action.

Anonymous said...

Yikes, that's way too much. Especially when we find out she's not running for her life, she's a desperate stalker.

Marissa Doyle said...

Oh my god. That is one of the best continuations ever. I was chortling out loud by the middle of the second paragraph.

EE is right--that was overwritten to the point of deep purple. Sometimes (frequently!) less is more.

John said...

Freakin' great continuation. And the crepe one wasn't bad either.

fairyhedgehog said...

A remarkably funny continuation.

EE has nailed what needs doing, as always.

BuffySquirrel said...

No cliche left unturned. Start again.

Phoenix said...

Hi Natbagel:

I'm going to guess this is one of the first stories you've really considered writing for publication. It's a bit overwrought but it has a lot of heart. Know what? Many of us went through this phase when we started out, too. You're learning not just how to get words on paper, but how to wring emotion out of an audience. There's a delicate balance there, and it takes practice and experimentation to find it and maintain it.

So take what you've done here and see what you can strip away while still maintaining the narrator's fear and angst. Ground the reader with more concrete imagery and less anthropomorphization of internal organs. Usually you can choose a single strong metaphor to convey the emotion you need. Trust your audience to fill in the gaps.

Learning to lean down is a process. If your natural tendency isn't Hemingway or EE's two sentences, that's OK. With practice and awareness, you should be able to reach a happy comprise both for yourself and your reader.

And Sean, I think I love you :o)

Anonymous said...

This is so emotionally overcharged that I can't read it as anything but a dream sequence. I kept waiting for her to wake up and start the novel.

_*rachel*_ said...

This has to be about the best continuation I've ever seen! The rhyme, the meter, the punchline--I cackled.

OK, the original. You've got a good start, but it's overdone. Cut by half, and make sure the half you cut includes the clinical descriptions--things like "I encountered cramps in succession throughout my legs" sound like a doctor, not someone running. It doesn't need to be fancy; it needs to be raw and breathless and real.

Kings Falcon said...

OMG - the continuation was fabulous!

To the author:

I think by over describing and overanalyzing everything, you’ve lost the feel you’ve tried so hard for. Don’t tell me the MC’s breath sounded like fear. Show me – how much it hurts to draw in the breath, how the leg cramps make her stumble.

As an example, you write: “Confused and disoriented, I frantically turned without thinking down another hallway almost entirely devoured by the darkness.” “Confused” “disoriented” “frantically” and “without thinking” are all telling words. “Turned” also seems odd and passive when paired with “frantically.” “Almost entirely” isn’t overly helpful in describing the scene either.

This line can be trimmed to “I bolted down another hallway and into the devouring darkness.” The “bolted” shows me that the MC is acting “without thinking.”

Focus on what you are trying to say and trim to cut the purple prose.

Eric said...

Oh, man, what a continuation! Serious props.

Author, everybody else is right. Your first lesson as a writer should be: never say in a dozen words what can be said in two. Or as the venerable Strunk and White put it, "Omit needless words."

Classic example: compare "She walked slowly and gingerly, trying hard to ignore the pain, favoring her right foot and dragging her left" to "She limped."

BuffySquirrel said...

Show, don't tell. It's hackneyed advice and many writers will spit on it, but it's relevant here. Instead of describing emotion to your readers, you need to evoke an emotional response in them. Instead of telling them the narrator is scared, make them feel her fear. Evoke the darkness by having her stumble over unseen things and bang and scrape against the walls. Evoke her fear and confusion through her thoughts and actions. You can do it.

Matt said...

Two strong words have more impact than thirty strong words.

Jayne said...

That continuation is freakin' BRILLIANT. Well done, Sean.

Author, in first person narration, the immediacy of the reading experience is your best friend. The reader feels what the character feels, and knows only what the character knows.

Every time the character tells the reader "I" did/thought/felt/whatever, immediacy is being lost, and momentum with it. "I" is a reminder that this is a story, not something the formerly engrossed reader is actually experiencing. Aim for immersion in the character's experiences and the reader will feel them right beside Carrie, without all that breathless prose getting in the way.