Wednesday, March 28, 2012

New Beginning 935

John Chandler was in the stables, measuring the oats for the night. The background noise of the horses impatiently banging their hooves against the doors was a welcome distraction to the annoying buzz of the flies.

John wiped the sweat off his face with the back of his hand. Hottest May in years, and no end in sight.

“Move it, buddy.” He poked the grey stable cat to get it out of the wheelbarrow. It barely flicked its ears, too lazy to make a move in the heat. Grinning, John shoved it aside and set the oat buckets in its place.

He heard the squashing noise of wet shoes long before their occupant, his son, reached the doorway and stopped dead in his tracks.

“Hello Luke.” John sized his wet and muddy child up with a glance. “What happened to you? Been swimming in your clothes again?”

Luke’s head came up at that, his mouth twisted into an ugly scowl. Blood dripped from his nose and there was an angry scratch on his cheek.

“Great.” John dropped the measuring cup into the oats chest and took a closer look at his son’s face. “That hurt?” he asked, while gently pressing down on the bridge of Luke’s nose.

Luke twisted in his grip, trying to get away. “I’m fine.”

The boy wriggled out of his father's grasp. "I was doing my chores," he said, "when the cat came flying out of the barn, mad as hell, and darn near took my face off."

John concentrated his gaze on the oats. "That so," he replied. "Well, set yourself down there while I finish this, then we'll go get you cleaned up."

Luke crouched down against a barn support, while his father grabbed the barrow.

Two full buckets toppled over, rolled along the sloped barrow rim and launched themselves into Luke's face.

"Ow! Jesus, Pa!"

"Sorry 'bout that, son. Still, I told you working the stable'd make a man of you. First a face full of pussy, and now you got your wild oats."

Opening: Anon......Continuation: anon.


Evil Editor said...

Unchosen continuation:

John was completely bummed.

The boy used to enjoy being tortured, but ever since he became a teenager, he grew more and more vanilla all the time.

--Angie Sargenti

Evil Editor said...

Assuming this is the place your story begins, I'd get to the good stuff faster:

John Chandler was in the stables measuring the oats for the night when his son appeared in the doorway, his mouth twisted into an ugly scowl, blood dripping from his nose.

"What happened, Luke?!"

"Friggin' werewolves."

See how getting to the werewolves makes you want to read on instead of setting the book aside and picking up a different one?

AlaskaRavenclaw said...

Yeah, I was gonna say the first four paragraphs were unnecessary, but I didn't think of adding werewolves, too.

PLaF said...

Holy Crap, EE.
I was going to make a first chapter submission today but now I see I must rewrite it. Again.

Friggin' werewolves.

Dave Fragments said...

After the most common ordinary scene setting of feeding horses in a barn, a father looks at a dripping wet son and says "Hello Luke?" That's one of the most passive and least exciting ways to introduce the kid I've ever read.

Worse, the reader now gets to listen to why the kid is wet and bloody second-hand and after the fact.

There is no jeopardy or excitement in this opening.

batgirl said...

What's the time period? At first I thought late 1800s, but 'move it, buddy' sounds urban and 1930s.
Other than that, what the others said. Is this where your story starts?

Laurie said...

What everyone else says - get to the kid quicker. It's a stable, he's measuring oats, maybe a quick item to tell me what the technology level is, and that's all we need. A few sentences should do it. You can even open with the kid and have the rest of it after.

I'm guessing this is you writing your way into the story, but you haven't gone back and cut it yet. Pefectly normal thing to do - I've cut whole pages out when I revised, but I needed to write it to get me into the scene.

Faceless Minion said...

Cats have a gender and are usually referred to by that gender with prepositions even after they've been neutered/spayed unless the story is taking place in some alternate reality where cats aren't quite the same.

The juxtaposition of 'squashing' and 'dead' in the same one sentence paragraph, and having caught a glimpse of the word 'blood' coming up, made me wonder if this was a horror story about his undead/non-human son. --This is probably just me

'Gently pressing' doesn't generally require 'twisted in his grip' to escape. Jerking his head away should suffice unless John has clamped down on the kid at some point we weren't told about.

I'm not sure why he's pressing on the nose at all if it's just bleeding, but then I know a few people who are prone to nose bleeds. If this is implying the nose might be broken, maybe mention swelling?

Anonymous said...

Presume "squashing" should be "squishing"?

batgirl said...

Faceless, without wanting to diss cats (though my own cat is a fluffy idiot), it's not unknown to refer to animals (and in older writing, to children or gender-unspecified human figures in the distance) as 'it'.
Personally, in a scene with humans and animals, I'd prefer 'it' for the animals for clarity.
This might be a regional/cultural variation. My impression has been that N American writers feel that 'it' is derogatory, and avoid using it.

Faceless Minion said...

I think the detail bothered/distracted me because I assumed the man works there regularly so he probably knows what gender the cat is. I doubt I would have noticed an 'it' if the cat had been on the street or in a more public area and could be classified as gender unknown.

Anonymous said...

Agree, get to the kid faster.

You could dispense with the cat. It doesn't serve a purpose unless it hisses/spits at the kid and runs off in the next couple of sentences, indicating it knows stuff we will find out in due course.

The more detail, the slower the story opens.