Wednesday, March 21, 2012

New Beginning 933

Dephon’s father had a power--a super power. Singleton Johnson had the amazing ability to blend seamlessly into the sofa.

Dephon wasn’t sure if it was due to his father’s fourteen-plus years of practice or some innate ability, but on days when his father wore his cream cardigan, beige cargo pants, and faded white socks‑‑which was everyday‑‑he almost disappeared. Dephon could always tell his father was there from the black remote gripped tightly in his hand.

As far back as Dephon could remember his father had always been on the couch. So of course, on March 26, when he entered their two-story Tudor-style home through the underground passage that linked the school’s sewer system to his home, he wasn’t surprised to find his father in his cream cardigan, beige cargo pants, and faded white socks‑‑on the couch.

“Hey, Dad.”

“Hello, Dephon. How was school?” his father asked in an uninterested monotone.

Dephon really wanted to tell him the truth, that school was a nightmare. The thugs on the football team had filled his locker with urine again. Kerry Dorsey thought it would be hilarious to put a dissected frog from the Biology lab on his seat during English class. And to top it all off, he’d gotten a D-plus on his Math test.

He decided to settle for, "Same as usual."

"We need to talk," his father said, his monotone even flatter than usual. "Sit down."

"Hm?" Dephon looked over at the recliner and realized the usual tell-tale copy of "Us" magazine was missing. Not believing his eyes, he swept the pleather with his hands. Nothing. But . . . where was his--

"Son, your mother has moved out."


"And this is Rochelle. She'll be staying here awhile..."

"Hello, Dephon," said the reading lamp, which, Dephon now noticed, was wearing a leopard skin halter-top.

Opening: Folami Morris.....Continuation: Anon.


Evil Editor said...

Unchosen continuations:

But he had to say something, even if he hadn't yet learned to be as invisible as his dad.

"Well, I learned a lot. Like, school lockers can be made liquid-tight...until you open them, at least. And recent experiments have shown that skins of amphibians can be useful as seat coverings. Er...and, oh, yes! I got the near equivalent of a C-minus-minus on my math test."

Dephon noticed what could either have been a wrinkle of confusion on his dad's brow or just a crease in the fabric of the sofa's back cushion. Sometimes, it was hard to tell with Dad.

"Great," said Dad, eventually. "Oh, and you did lock the sewer door when you came home, right?"

Dephon detected a slight movement of the remote on the arm rest of the sofa as the TV began sifting through various "reality show" possibilities.

"I'll just go and make sure I did," said Dephon, as he retreated hastily.

Dephon did not go to the sewer door, but to the telephone. He found the number he needed in the Yellow Pages. Dialed.

"Acme Upholstering," the answering voice said. "What may we make like new for you?"


Well, he thought, at least I don't blend into the background.
He left his father to his practice and went to sneak a beer and go hide from the bullies in the sewer.
Sure, it was smelly in there, but at least it was peaceful.

--Angie Sargenti

But before he could speak, he saw the wire sticking out of his father's right hand.

Dephon stared. What did this mean? Where was his real father? Who was this?

His father caught his look. "I'm sorry you had to find out this way, Dephon," he intoned. "We've been trying to keep it from you so you would blend in."

"What--what are you?"

"A cyborg, the same as you. To tell the truth you've been disappointment to all of us. Maybe we should have told you."

"A cyborg?"

"Yes. Now go change for dinner."

What--what did this mean? A cyborg? But on the other hand, it did explain why he gave Missy Bondarini a nasty electrical shock the other night in the basement.


Evil Editor said...

I don't think it's called fading when white socks get darker. I think it's called dirt.

The third paragraph is wordy. Once you've said father had always been on the couch, do you need to say in the next sentence that Dephon wasn't surprised to find father on the couch? Plus, using the phrase "his cream cardigan, beige cargo pants, and faded white socks" twice in four sentences is annoying.

Pointing out that dad spoke in a monotone is presumably meant to show he wasn't really interested, so there's no need to also tell us he sounded uninterested.

I'd dump the whole 2nd paragraph and the first sentence of the third. And you might want to just say Dephon is getting home from school. It feels infodumpy to be working in that it's a two-story Tudor-style home, and it's also a bit early to mention something as over-the-top as the sewer system short cut home.

Dave Fragments said...

I had a different reaction to the wordiness. This is what I think it should be...

Dephon’s father had a power--a super power. He could blend seamlessly into the sofa.

Singleton Johnson's fourteen-plus years of sofa sitting meant his father's cream cardigan, beige cargo pants, and faded white socks disappeared into the cream-colored living room. Dephon knew his father existed because the black TV remote moved.

When he climbed the basement stairs from the the underground passage to his living room, there sat his father, blending into non-existence

“Hey, Dad.”

“Oh you're home. How was school?”

Dephon shrugged an OK. He wanted to tell him the truth. The football team peed in his locker. Kerry Dorsey put frog guts on his seat during English class. Worse, he’d gotten a D-plus on his Math test, his best subject.

Now I'm guessing that the rest of this scene is a father-son talk or the reveal of his father being more than a couch potato.

BuffySquirrel said...

You could rewrite it like that, except then we'd think there were three people in the scene.

Laurie said...

What EE and Dave said - the prose is wordy, repetitious, and info-dumpy (not unusual for openings). Dave's version is a good place to start, though BuffySquirrel has a good point - I had to think a bit at the introduction of the Dad's name before I knew who you were referring to.

Storywise, so far this is fine. I like the image of his dad blending in with the couch and I’m sympathetic with the kid. If the prose were cleaner, I would read on.

Dave Fragments said...

Yeah, I caught the Dad's name when I reread what I wrote. The simplest fix is to move the father's name after he speaks and replace where it currently is with "His father" or some such switch like that.

I left some of the details like the sewers from the school to the house for later. Also, the opening paragraphs didn't need that it was Tudor style which in my neighborhood means split level. I am guessing again that he writer doesn't intend this to be a 1500 to 1800 sq ft house but something more expansive and older. Something that could support an entry from beneath in the sewers. ALso, this has to be a city house because the sewers in our suburbs won't be large enough to walk around in... Also, the really older inner cities have steam tunnels. My university had steam tunnels and the original buildings had four and five basements.

If that is the case here, then all that description has to wait until after the reader is hooked.

I have the same trouble in that I write infodumps around buildings and characters and then have to edit the details into the text later.

And when you say something like "...his father asked in an uninterested monotone" think about saying something like "...his father said without taking his eyes off the judge on the TV." You can't do that in every case because you slow the story but once or twice it adds color. It could also be a news program about the latest alien invasion or Zombiefied-Dingo attack.

Dephon is an interesting character.

AlaskaRavenclaw said...

Agree with the others: wordy and info-dumpy.

And I add: why are you opening with Dephon's father? Dephon is the main character. Open with him.

Anonymous said...

All valid points. I will re-tailor the beginning. It starts with the father, because in one page his father won't be on the couch and that kicks off the story. Other wise his absence from the couch would seem insignificant.

I will definitely remove the Tudor house desccription and the repetition as far as the father is concerned. I don't know what I will do as far as the sewer, I couldn't imagine where that should go if not there.

BuffySquirrel said...

I think the problem with the sewer reference isn't so much that it's there, but that it's a) so very info-dumpy and b) it's in a sentence that's already doing a lot of work, and making it too long and awkward.

Not that there is anything wrong with long sentences per se. It's this particular one that isn't working.

And, tbh, as Dephon is expecting to find his father on the sofa, you don't need actually to show him to us. You could easily start with Dephon on his way home, through the sewer, building his expectations of what he'll find as you do here, then shattering them when his father isn't there.

At the moment, you have Dephon expecting to find his father, then Dephon finding exactly what he expects. So it feels repetitive rather than interesting.

PLaF said...

I think it would be stronger if you led with the secret passage in the sewer. That is the line that kept me reading. The info about the dad's super power gets a little watered down and might be better served if used as sarcasm on the part of the MC instead of the hook. If the super power never comes into play during the course of the story then I am going to feel cheated in the end no matter how well the book ends. Lastly, the problems you present for the MC (locker, math, etc) should be solved by the end of the story. I'm not convinced these problems would keep me interested. They don't have to be super problems, but they do have to be interesting or even a little odd. I.e. Luke skywalker wants to leave the family farm, Peter Parker pines for MJ. Lockers filled with urine...ew. Even in a post-ap tale. You do have a few interesting things going on. I admit I was curious about the kid coming home via the sewer while dad sat in beige anonymity on the couch.