Wednesday, July 27, 2011

New Beginning 871

The small crowd applauded at the previous answer, the contestant sat with the others, all pretty, all done to the nines. Make-up just so, dresses all alike, smiles fixed on with Vaseline petroleum jelly.

“And now we'll hear from Miss Des Moine, Jennifer Haynes.”

Jennifer Haines walked up in stairs and to the microphone. She looked to the audience, her smile as in place as her brown hair.

“Distinguished judges, ladies and gentlemen. If I could be anyone in history, I would be Adolf Hitler.” The audience sucked its collective breath. “I don't think I could be as smart as Cicero, as courageous as Winston Churchill, or, alas, as honest as George Washington. But I would also not be as evil as Hitler, I could stand and say no to the things he did. I could turn away from wrong. And if the world seems to lack heroes, maybe it needs to start with people who will just say no to doing wrong.”

The applause was more than polite, it was stunned polite. People were out of sync, starting way too early or way to late, and sometimes starting, stopping, and starting again.

“Did you get that? Did you get that?”

“It's not like a war or sporting event, I point the camera and it gets all the action. Jeez, Jekkie, like I don't know what I'm doing.”

“It's not like that, Henry. I'm going to lead with this, tonight. It's gold.”

"I'll admit it was refreshingly original," Henry said. "But no one will care unless she wins."

"She'll win. The parade of Abe Lincoln and Sarah Palin wannabes was putting everyone to sleep."

The contestant had returned to her seat and Miss Cedar Rapids had moved to the microphone. "If I could be anyone in history," she said, "I would be Osama bin Laden."

Jekkie's mouth hung open. "You gotta admit one thing, Henry," he said. "For once the Miss Teen Jewish Princess of Iowa Contest is worth covering."

Opening: D Jason Cooper.....Continuation: EE/Anon.


BuffySquirrel said...

We have Jennifer Haynes, then, in the *very next sentence*, Jennifer Haines.

That's got to be a record for changing the character's name!

The first line is confusing, as we haven't seen the previous answer. Maybe just, 'The small crowd applauded as the contestant sat back with the others, all pretty, all done up to the nines.'

Vaseline petroleum jelly feels redundant. Either would be fine.

Somehow the statement 'I would be Adolf Hitler' falls flat. I think you need more of a reaction to it. More of an impact.

Evil Editor said...

The city in Iowa is spelled Des Moines. Is that the place you mean?

P1: 'm no grammar cop, but I don't recommend starting with a comma splice followed by a fragment. Start the first sentence with "As" or change the first comma to a semicolon. Or a period. The second "sentence" isn't needed. "All pretty, all done to the nines" gets across the point.

P3: Besides the last name problem, I'm not sure what "walked up in stairs" means. I picture the contestants seated on stage. Do they have to walk up a flight of stairs to get to the microphone?

P8: "It's not like that, Henry." What's not like what? It would be clearer if he said "I didn't mean it like that." More likely he wouldn't address Henry's comment at all, being too wrapped up in his big scoop.

Dave said...

I like this as an opening. It's brash and ballsy. I don't watch beauty pageants anymore since they network cancelled Chuck Barris' $1.98 Beauty Pageant. That was the only honest pageant. (Give me a fat, ugly old broad in a Catalina bathing suit over some air-headed, boobalicious, half-starved, skeletal airhead in a designer gown any day.)
{Don't take that last remark too serious. Laugh at it.}
I can see this actually happening where the answers of "I want world peace" and "Jesus is my favorite person" and the Abe Lincoln and Geo Washington lovers, or the Ghandi peaceniks just fill that Q&A period.
I mean, no gal from the Midwest USA tells the judges her Daddy raises lambs for Easter dinner or succulent chickens for wedding receptions. I knew a fellow at work who raised the chickens for his daughter's weddings and slaughtered them all he weekend before. Everyone at the wedding had this grand vision of bridal party surrounded by chicken carcasses.
Ghosts clucking and pecking...


It's like Cavaradossi trying to comfort Tosca who has just stabbed the life out of Scarpia by saying
O dolci mani mansuete e pure,
o mani elette a bell'opre e pietose,

In English:
Oh sweet hands pure and gentle,
Oh hands meant for the fair works of piety,

It's like saying kiss the blood of my hands darling but not as blunt.
Now I know y'all don't like it when I quote opera, but this is high themed stuff. So high themed that it's rising up there in the extravagant heights of rhetoric and hyperbole that beauty pageant contestants resort to in those silly answers. This is why it's a good opening, even as written. It takes us up to the heights only to drop us down in the mud with a giant splat.

But I digress...

I think you could improve on this opening and make it hold the reader for the rest of the chapter. As it is, you have to get through 57 or so words to reach the most outrageous statement. I think that you need to put the "punch in the face line" in the first sentence like this:

"If I could be anyone in history, I would be Adolf Hitler. Distinguished judges, ladies and gentlemen. Yes, Adolph Hitler." Jennifer Haynes, Miss Des Moines' words were treated with skittish silence. All the other contestants stared, dressed to the nines, smiles fixed on with Vaseline petroleum jelly. "I don't think I could be as smart as Cicero, as courageous as Winston Churchill, or, alas, as honest as George Washington. But I would also not be as evil as Hitler, I could stand and say no to the things he did. I could turn away from wrong. And if the world seems to lack heroes, maybe it needs to start with people who will just say no to doing wrong."

And then audience reaction followed by the two reporters.

AlaskaRavenclaw said...

This is probably a function of only being presented with a fragment, but I don't get this.

Ms. Haynes/Haines's idea itself is no crashing insight, and slightly flawed: Hitler probably never had an opportunity to "just say no to doing wrong", since he never thought he was doing wrong.

So I can't tell if I'm supposed to be impressed by Ms. H as not just another ditzy beauty queen, or disgusted with Ms. H as just another ditzy beauty queen.

But neither one grabs me.

Would anyone applaud in this sitch? I realize Iowans are famous for their friendliness, but still?

Evil Editor said...

Possibly Jekkie is the main character and we aren't supposed to be impressed or disgusted with the contestant, but merely observe Jekkie's reaction.

150 said...

I think AKR nailed it for me. Her argument is pretty stupid--and, well, "I would not be as evil as Hitler" is not much of a self-commendation. Am I supposed to be wondering if Miss Des Moines has really thought through her statement, the extent to which she would "be" Hitler, at what point she would become Hitler and start deciding not to do evil, whether Hitler ever decided NOT to do evil or whether he always proactively decided TO do evil--or did you expect me to think she was actually saying something smart?

BuffySquirrel said...

Did blogger eat my comment?

Evil Editor said...

No, I forgot to click publish. It's there now.

AlaskaRavenclaw said...

Is that what happens? When my comments don't appear, I always assume you found them deeply offensive.

Dave said...

I take Miss Haynes's answer as "Shocking" like A LITTLE PRIEST in Sweeny Todd where they sings what is really quite revoltingly cannibalism.

But the song always gets laughs and grins.

Chicory said...

I get the impression that the main characters in this story are the two guys filming the contest. It seems to me that the opening would be stronger if we knew we were getting this from their POV from the start. I do like the whole beauty queen shocking the audience out of compliance, then following it with a generic speech.

Evil Editor said...

There'd hardly be any comments if I never posted the deeply offensive ones.

vkw said...

I think it was an ignorant answer as well, but let's consider -

1. It was suppose to be ignorant.
2. It has nothing to do with the plot.
3. The question itself is rather dumb. "If I could be anyone in history . . ." Is this toddlers in tiars? I think the judges are looking at the person's ability to stay cool and collected when asked dumb questions and responding using correct English. They don't want to know how Miss Iowa is going to change the world, they are looking for poise and beauty and pronunciation.

So we should move on to more pressing questions -
4. How does one look like they fixed a smile on with Vaseline, by the way? Is "done to the nines" too old fashion? Is it too cliche'?

"Just say no to doing wrong" - Jennifer is a Republican and transplanted to IA from Texas where she was a close personal friend to Bubba and Mrs. Bubba. Is that the plot?

Maybe start at P.2 - not sure the first P. is needed at all.

Xiexie said...

The switch in POV was a bit Jarring for me.

The first sentence is too many sentences with too many commas.

The small crowd applauded at the previous answer. The contestant sat with the others, all pretty, all done to the nines with make-up just so, dresses all alike and smiles fixed on with Vaseline.

(We know that Vaseline is petroleum jelly.)

Otherwise this opening works for me.

Chelsea P. said...

Rather than beginning with, "The small crowd applauded at the previous answer," why not just begin with the answer? If you give us something cheesy, vapid, and ridiculous, Jennifer's answer will pack more of a punch.

As for Jennifer's answer itself, well, am I the only one who was hoping she'd actually defend her desire to be Hitler? At worst, she'd be a psycho who actually empathized with Hitler's atrocities, and at best she'd be using her speech to give the pageant her middle finger. Either way, her speech would serve as an indictment of the pageant world, which in my personal opinion is better than saying:

"I would be Hitler. But, like, a nice Hitler."

That's my two cents :)

Adele said...

I like the idea and could visualize the scene, and I'd continue with this if I weren't so put off by all the little mistakes:

-you applaud something; you don't applaud *at* it
-you walk up stairs, you don't walk up *in* them

and a bit of clunkiness:
"smiles fixed on with Vaseline..." sounds like the Vaseline was used as a glue to attach a fake paper smile. Try "smiles fixed with Vaseline" or perhaps turn it around: "with Vaseline smiles"

and "her smile as in place as her brown hair" simply didn't work for me. Can't explain why. Just didn't.