Tuesday, August 16, 2011

New Beginning 876

It really was the worst of times. Claudia looked at her hands and found they were still semi-transparent. It's one thing to wake up and find a pimple on your nose, it's quite another to find that you have no nose at all, well just a shadow of one.

"I know that I fell off the porch, headfirst," Claudia thought. "I feel okay, just my usual sinus pressure. Hey, how many ghosts have sinus problems. Maybe this just a dream."

But as she saw an ugly small demon appear in front of her, she began to question that.

The demon, for he was too ugly to be anything else, said, "Hi there, I'm your guardian angel."

Claudia eyed him as he picked his nose with a long index finger. "Do you have any id? I mean, no offense, but you're not exactly... well..."

"Sure," the demon replied, "I got id. I got ego. I got super-ego. I'm very self-aware."

"And, uh, you're my guardian angel?"

The demon flicked a booger off the end of his gnarly finger. "Face it. You need me. Here you are..."

The demon pulled a Benzedrex inhaler and a pair of spectacles from his pocket. "These should take care of your problems."

"Huh?"

Skeptical, Claudia put on the glasses. Suddenly her hand came into solid focus and she could find her nose in the mirror. She took a deep pull on the inhaler and her sinus pain disappeared.

Sometimes the simplest explanation is the most likely.

And demons suck at fiction.


Opening: R.T. Davis.....Continuation: anon.

12 comments:

Evil Editor said...

Unchosen continuation:


"Ego material?" The demon suggested. "Well duh. Of course I don't have an id...I'm an expression of yours."

"Huh?" Claudia raised her semi-transparent hand to rub her somewhat opaque head. Maybe she'd hit it harder than she thought; her psychic apparatus was falling apart.

The demon grinned, his crooked teeth gleaming. "You don't have the strongest super-ego yourself, sister."

"What do you mean?"

"You just dreamt up a guardian angel sticking long appendages into open orifices. Think about it."

Claudia groaned and closed her eyes. "I'm never reading Psychoanalysis for Dummies before bed again," she swore.

--Tamara Marnell

Evil Editor said...

P1: Drop the first two sentences. The third sentence will make more sense if she's not looking at her hands. And the first sentence is vague. This isn't a parody of A Tale of Two Cities.

P2: Delete "that" from sentence 1. Question mark after sentence 3. Change "just" to "is" in sentence 4. Maybe the semi-transparent hands should be placed right before the ghost sentence. Or just "Am I dead?" right after the porch sentence. The ghost sentence makes more sense if she's wondering if she's dead; as it is now, it's not clear she hasn't been a ghost for several days, especially with the hands "still" being semi-transparent.

P3: Change "as" to "when." Although, if I saw an ugly small demon appear in front of me, it would increase my belief that I was dreaming, not convince me I probably wasn't dreaming.

P6: Perhaps if you capitalize ID?


I assume this is middle grade?

AlaskaRavenclaw said...

Much as I loathe stories that start with the protag dying, this could really be quite engaging if you fix the excess verbiage and a couple clunky bits. Like so:

It really was the worst of times. Claudia looked at her hands and found they were still semi-transparent. It's one thing to wake up and find a pimple on your nose, it's quite another to find that you have no nose at all xxx.

"I know that I fell off the porch
[no comma] headfirst," Claudia thought. "I feel okay, just my usual sinus pressure. Hey, how many ghosts have sinus problems. Maybe this just a dream."

But as she saw an ugly small
[why not small ugly?] demon appear in front of her, she began to question that. [Does not work: She's been questioning it all along. I'd take out the cliche "just a dream" and just say that the demon appeared.]

The demon, for he was too ugly to be anything else, said, "Hi there, I'm your guardian angel."

Claudia eyed him as he picked his nose with a long index finger. "Do you have any [ID]? I mean, no offense, but you're not exactly... well..."

AlaskaRavenclaw said...

PS-- I also question the inclusion of the aside "for he was too ugly to be anything else" --that sort of thing is all right if it occurs only occasionally, but if you've got a lot of those in your mss then it's going to slow the pace a lot and readers may get annoyed.

Dave Fragments said...

I"m with EE on those opening two paragraphs. I think opening with the "pimple on the nose" sentence and then having the character admit in she's a ghost is the way to go. That's an immediate revelation and what happens next is a greater revelation - her angel looks and acts disgusting.

I presume there is a measure of humor to the story? I'm also guessing that these are the two main characters and they will end the story?

And I don't like the ID question. I would be very careful about what goes on next. In fact, I would have some jeopardy show up and threaten them. I wouldn't have a chapter long philosophic discussion about how clumsy Claudia is and how she ended up dead.

150 said...

It's one thing to wake up and find a pimple on your nose, it's quite another to find that you have no nose at all, well just a shadow of one.

That sentence parses so badly that it comes off as a real red flag. It seems likely that similar sentences are all over the full manuscript. I suspect a good beta-reader or a thorough class in style and grammar could really help you out. Not a slam, just a suggestion.

BuffySquirrel said...

Is the 'for he was too ugly to be anything else' line authorial intrusion or an aside from the protag? Either way, it comes across as equating appearance with moral worth. That's okay from a character who's going to learn better, but if it's from the author, it's put-the-book-down-and-tiptoe-away time.

I realise Fantasy is riddled with this stuff, right down from Big Ole Grandaddy Tolkien and his 'birth is destiny' tendencies, but a little moral complexity isn't a bad thing.

R.T. said...

Here's an edit, taking all of your thoughtful comments into consideration:

It was a bad day for Claudia Tandell, short blonde, 24, just fired from her job as a barista at Starbucks in Manhattan.

Claudia stood in the middle of the busy city sidewalk and re-examined her hands intently. They were still semi-transparent.

"I think that I fell out the window," Claudia thought, looking up at the 15th floor of the building. "But I feel okay, just my usual sinus pressure."

Then she saw the body on her left. It wore a familiar green apron, hers.

And the street became silent.

Before she could think again, mobs of people coalesced around her.

Claudia maintained a positive outlook. "Maybe this just a bad dream. I'll wake up and find that everything is fine."

Then a two foot tall individual dressed as Dracula materialized in front of her with a POP.

The creature said, "Hi there, I'm your guardian angel, Mr. Crabby."

Claudia sighed. "Yup, bad mistake leaning against that window, this is too weird to be a dream."

Claudia said aloud, "You're not the lovely lady with fluffy wings and a golden halo I've been led to expect. Show me some ID, dude."

Dave Fragments said...

Let me ask a philosophical question, Will anyone care about Claudia's last name at the end of the chapter, the novel, ever? Can you character exist without her last name? It's not a criticism. I"m only asking that you think about this.

I read your revision and I still think you are putting too many words before Claudia lets the reader know that she's dead. I don't get the transparent hand thing as interesting. I find it boring.

She's confused and very dead. She's not going to look at anything and see it as we do, she's not dispassionate. She's gone into tears over being fired or thrown a hissy fit or begged for her job while a Snidely Whiplash boss berated her. I don't care what you think happened 15 stories up. Claudia is down here on the ground standing next to a very dead and rather bloody body. People are standing around her staring, puking, shrieking, and possibly pooing their pants.

What don't you open inside her mind?

Claudia stood up and wondered, how did I get here on the street? The last thing she remembered was crying her eyes out while the boss fired her. then the elevator going down so fast and now she's out on he street with tears in her eyes. Bad enough to lost her job but to become a public spectacle on the street. Then she looked down and realized that her body lay on the sidewalk and the passersby were staring at it.

"Bad mistake to lean against that window," a voice said behind her. She looked. It was two foot tall, dressed like Dracula, bad hair, leathery wings and pimples on its butt. "I bet a twenty on it taking two gallons of bleach to get your stain off the sidewalk, toots. You want in on the action?"

Claudia maintained a positive outlook. "Maybe this just a bad dream. I'll wake up and find that everything is fine."


And of course, the "angel" is going to wisecrack a response. I think with a situation like this (finding your mangled body suddenly dead) the entire world becomes slightly bent and strangely stupid.
"Am I dead? Is that my body?"
"No honeybunny, it's my second cousin twice remove, earl after his sex change."

You're writing like all this has to make sense and all this can be describe in normal ways. There's not a chance of that working. Any one of the people on the street can see Claudia's body and describe it in common, non-horrific terms and it will can sound horrific.
"I saw a dead body today. A woman fell through a window on the 15th floor of Zippo Building and there she lay on teh ground, dead. I could hardly recognize her as a woman she was so smashed up."
The stranger doesn't want to describe the bloody mess so he/she skirts the issue.

Claudia doesn't believe she's dead. The "angel" has been through this many times with other dead people. He's bored and she's going to a) not believe, b) fight, c) bargain, d) etc... He's like a bad NOIR detective - smart mouthing to keep from dying of boredom or so jaded by life, he no longer cares.

Claudia is too perky to think she's dead or too happy to think she's dead or something that I don't know yet.

AlaskaRavenclaw said...

R.T., I'm afraid it was better before the edit.

In this version, you lost me on the first sentence.

It was a bad day for Claudia Tandell, short blonde, 24, just fired from her job as a barista at Starbucks in Manhattan.

Here are the reasons I wouldn't have read past that sentence:

1. The word "blonde" as a noun to refer to a woman.

2. The most interesting thing in the sentence is "bad day", and you veer away from it immediately to give us unnecessary backstory and description.

3. The said unnecessary backstory and description. All we need to know about the character at this point is her first name. Everything else is a drag on moving the story forward.

4. If it was a bad day because she just died, that's interesting. If it was a bad day, as this sentence tells us, because she lost a job that probably wasn't central to her identity, that's not interesting.

And it doesn't get better from there. Sorry. Not meaning to be mean but it does look like you could probably work on your writing a bit. There are some funny lines here, but awkward phrasing, over-explanation and precious word choice kills the impact.

Sarah Laurenson said...

On the rewrite:

It's a little clunky especially with respect to the timeline. Not clear if her hands were semi-transparent before she fell or only afterwards and she's been standing there looking at them off and on.

And that the street only fell silent when she noticed the body seems out of place. Maybe the silence of the street clues her in to the body. It's a nice detail that can add color to the scene.

You don't have to tell us she maintained a positive attitude and then show it in the dialogue. It's usually better to show something than tell it, so I suggest going with that.

Can she feel the mobs of people? Do they walk through her, around her? Do they in any way acknowledge her standing there? More detail that can add depth to the scene.

Keep going!

BuffySquirrel said...

Yeah, I'm sure Claudia's worrying about her identity rather than how she'll pay her rent and, yanno, eat.

Don't try so hard to get a lot of information in front of the reader. Start with a character in a situation. A character who's a person, not a list of attributes.