Tuesday, January 11, 2011

New Beginning 823

Adam checked his watch, only to remember that the face was smashed in, and the arms were twisted at odd angles. Ultimately, it was in bad condition. It didn't even tell the date anymore, but from looking at calendars, He thought it to be about September, maybe early October.

It was hot out, his hair sticking to his forehead, and the back of his neck. Adam wrinkled his nose and coughed into his arm. The entire city smelled like the damn Reekers.

He felt rats scamper over his scuffed shoes, but he was so used to it that he hardly flinched anymore. Hardly.

"Hey, Adam," Raine caught his attention, and pointed it into the direction of a rundown Gas Station, "I bet we could find a map in there."

"Good idea. Gio and Lacy go around the back to check for some Reekers, and Raine and I will go around the front and check out the inside first. Todd, you can stay back and look outside." Adam seemed to like calling the shots, going back into his head to get information from the countless facts about surviving he had memorized.

Adam went to the very front with Raine, and scoped it all out, eyes scanning, brains worrying. Nothing seemed to be wrong, except for a rotting hand by the handicap symbol that was painted and faded into a parking spot that had been vacant for some time now.

But he didn't let his guard down, and they ventured inside the seemingly abandoned gas station, their foot-steps careful and calculated.

Inside, the gas station was as devastated as the world outside. Most everything of value had been taken, and what was left was strewn broken or rotting across the floor.

Adam noticed the map stand wedged behind the empty drinks cooler. It had taken some strength to move that; whoever did it, he didn't want to meet. "Raine!" he shouted. "Give me a hand."

Silence. Then a sickening scraping shuffle. Then something clammy against his neck. Adam felt his bowels loosen as he turned to face... Raine. "This one do?" Raine asked. "I found it outside."

Thus came to pass the demise of the last member of the human race.

Opening: Lindsey.....Continuation: anon.


Evil Editor said...

Unchosen continuations:

Everyone thought Justin, the hyperactive hockey player/landscaper was the one to have around during the Reeker apocalypse. But really, Adam, permitted himself a small smile, that guy didn't have the attention span to remember the rules. Justin died the first week, in a Gas Station just like this one, defending himself from a Reeker female.

Guys with OCD were the ones to keep close to now. Step on a crack, break your mother's back. See a Reeker's head, hit him 'til he's dead. Except, except...the broken watch...he had to keep checking it. Again and again. A Reeker in the day, time to run away. Reeker in the night, you'll lose the fight. The Reekers would come out at sundown and even stupid people knew Daylight Savings Time started in October.


Cautiously they made their way inside, stepping over the body frozen to the floor in a pool of blood.

"Whaddaya want?" snarled the attendant.

"A map," said Raine.

"And a Rock Star," Adam added.

"Five bucks." The attendant picked out a new Rand McNally while Adam collected his black can. "You sure you kids know what you're doing?"

"Yes." Adam paid the man and they left.

Outside they carefully unfolded the map. "Okay," said Adam. "According to this, we're just a couple of blocks from our target. And this time, we stick together. Right?"

The others nodded. The last thing they wanted was to do was keep wandering around Detroit without a map.


Evil Editor said...

P1. Once you've given us sentence 1, I don't see the need for sentence 2.

If you don't know what month it is, I don't see how looking at a calendar is going to enlighten you, unless there's an arrow pointing to the square for September 29 and saying, You are here.

P2: If hair sticking to forehead and neck show that it's hot, no need to tell us it's hot. I think I'd just drop the sentence.

P4: change "into" to "in."

P5: I'd get rid of "going back into his head to get information from the countless facts about surviving he had memorized."

"look outside" sounds weird, as Todd is outside. Keep lookout" might be better.

P6: How can they tell the parking space has been vacant for some time now? If it's because all parking spaces have been vacant, then it's not an idea that would occur to them.

"Brains worrying" is an odd phrasing.

P7: I'd lose "and calculated." "Footsteps" isn't hyphenated.

I also find switching between he and they a bit bothersome in the last two paragraphs.

Not clear why Reekers and Gas Station are capitalized.

Phoenix Sullivan said...

Hi Lindsey:

The Detroit continuation notwithstanding, the opening succeeds in conveying this is a post-apocalyptic/dystopian story.

The writing, though, really needs to be strengthened a lot before it can be considered professional level. EE's done a good job in helping point you down the path for this excerpt, but I think you'll benefit from getting involved with a good critique group willing to help you polish the rest of it by pointing out redundancies, poor word choices, and logic problems.

For example, the logic here is contradictory in a couple of places:

* Adam, who is apparently good at the minutiae of leadership, can't remember he's wearing a broken watch that seems to have been a worthless timepiece for awhile now. Details matter, and giving us contradictory info within just a few words of each other about Adam muddles the reader's take on him. Characters can of course be complicated, just be careful of cramming too much at a reader to start with.

* The place is infested with rats but they have inexplicably left a single hand alone in the open long enough to rot. No self-respecting rat would be caught scampering over a scuffed shoe when there is sweet flesh rotting nearby. Rats running over shoes for no reason but not swarming meat strains credibility.

You're building a complete world for the reader but it can't be populated by details that just sound cool. Everything must integrate seamlessly to make it believable and to hold the reader's focus on the story that's unfolding. You don't want them distracted by pieces of a world that don't fit together.

There's also an abrupt POV shift at "Adam seemed to like calling the shots" that takes us from close third to -- I don't know exactly what -- uncertain omniscient maybe?

Hopefully now that it's pointed out to you, you see why it's distracting. If you don't understand why it's a POV shift, then your next course of action should be to get some good books on writing, study them for awhile, then come back to this manuscript and apply what you've learned.

While this isn't "there" yet, at the raw level you do seem to have a grasp of language and how to show not tell. Now it's time to start refining that talent.

Good luck!

Sarah from Hawthorne said...

This seems like a good start, but a little wordy. Try reading this out loud - I bet you'll find yourself automatically smoothing out the rough places and eliminating unnecessary words and clauses.

An example of how you might edit P5:

"Good idea. Gio, Lacy, go around back. Raine and I will go around front and check the inside first. Todd, you're the lookout." Adam liked calling the shots, going back into the countless survival facts he'd memorized.

Also, how could an analog watch (with a face and arms) have told him the date to begin with?

Joie said...

I like the tone of this, but the rats threw me off too. I wasn't sure why they were running over anyone's feet in an open space, since rats would probably only do that in an enclosed area (like a sewer) where they didn't have much choice. Rats tend to avoid coming into contact with people if at all possible, so being in an open area, would mean they'd dart out of sight the minute they thought anyone was approaching, or rear up and try to defend whatever they were eating. The realism didn't quite stick for me there.

I did like the broken watch face, however, and thought it was a good opening, but would drop the mention of the calendar. It seems unnecessary. Just mention he couldn't keep track of what month it was anymore.

I was fine with Reekers being capitalized because they're obviously something important in the novel and are going to be explained shortly. The gas station on the other hand, is just a gas station.

My only other suggestion would be some description of the other people with the main protagonist, even if it's just a line or two; "Raine brushed her shaggy dark hair out of her eyes." It will help develop a clearer idea of who the characters actually are and help set the scene. Right now the opening is all action and internal monologue.

Dave Fragments said...

You are choking off you story with too much detail.

Adam unconsciously checks his watch. Why? It's a favored piece of jewelry or his favorite. He keeps it because it means something to him. That will establish many things in the reader's mind.

Now you want to establish an uncertainty about the month but that clashes with the ruined watch and the sweat of his brow.

It's what we used to call Indian Summer in late September or October. That odd warm spell before the weather turns completely to fall.

And as Phoenix points out rats scamper over the dead and rotting bodies that fill city with a malodorous stench. Reekers everywhere.

"Hey, Adam," Raine caught his attention, and pointed it into the direction of a rundown Gas Station, "I bet we could find a map in there."
"Good idea. Gio and Lacy go around the back to check for some Reekers, and Raine and I will go around the front and check out the inside first. Todd, you can stay back and look outside." Adam seemed to like calling the shots, going back into his head to get information from the countless facts about surviving he had memorized.

All of that could be said like this:
Raine pointed at a derelict gas station. "I bet we could find a map in there." Gio and Lacy agreed. They went around back to check for Reekers. Raine and Adam went to check the inside first. Todd stood watch at the vehicle.

Same situation but more tense and more compact. That Adam is the brains of the bunch only counts when he is challenged by one of the others. Otherwise, his giving direction (or orders) to the group establishes he is in command.

I'm glad you didn't explain a Reeker just yet. I presume a Reeker will attack the group and that will be your opportunity to describe a Reeker. It's like revealing the monster in a movie. You hold something back for later scares.

vkw said...

Dear Author you have a start. Now you need to edit, paragraph by paragraph.

Most people would throw a broken watch away. You'll need to explain somewhere in the novel while Adam did not. sentence two needs to be cut. I want a calendar that points to "you are here" that would be a nifty thing to own but, EE is right about the calendar it's worthless in this situation.

"Adam wrinkled his nose and coughed into his arm" Usually wrinkling one's nose is a sub-conscience act, therefore, it appears to me you changed the POV here. Maybe he covered his nose. . .

It's easy to do. I do it all the time.

Again your POV seems to change when you write "hardly flinched". People don't notice what they don't do anymore. Except smoking. I notice I don't do that anymore.

Enough about me. . .

Adam seemed to like calling the shots should be "Adam liked calling the shots using what he learned about survival."

That sentence you begin with an outside POV - "Adam seemed to like (adam would know) calling the shots" then you moved inside his brain and talked about what only Adam would know. You have to pick a POV.

I think that's your main problem here.

The rats would more likely be inside the gas station than outside. They prefer dark places where they can hide. They like to be around food. (mice in the house hang out under cupboards for a reason) I doubt they would scamper across anyone's foot without being spooked.

Anyway. . . . rewrite it and let us have another shot at it.