Tuesday, March 26, 2013

New Beginning 998


I wasn't what most people would've called "extraordinary." Scratch that – I wasn't what anyone would've called "extraordinary." Actually, I doubt they would've called me anything – they would've had to notice me first.

Like most people who are painfully ordinary, I led a painfully ordinary life. I was a senior at an ordinary high school where I usually made B's and C's. I had an ordinary part-time job on the weekends, an ordinary car to get me there, and the two most ordinary parents on the planet, who occasionally gave me an ordinary amount of grief.

Extraordinary things never – and I mean NEVER – happened to me.

Until the day I met her.

Yeah, like so many things, it all started with a girl. A beautiful girl. The kind of beautiful that would never look twice at a guy like me.

But this girl did.

And what a look it was. Her eyes weren't blue or green or hazel or brown or violet – they were all of those at once, encircling her pupils with slivers of color that spiraled inward to pour their brilliant hues into her soul.

Well, like I said, they were pretty amazing.

When she smiled at me I knew it came right from that beautiful soul.

She climbed into my ordinary car on that ordinary Friday afternoon. We drove to her place, the ordinary little Sunset Motel, where she was staying. I sat on the edge of that ordinary bed, knowing that what would happen next would be the most extraordinary thing to happen in my life.

And that's how I got arrested for solicitation of prostitution. 


Opening: A.M. Perkins.....Continuation: Khazar-khum

14 comments:

Evil Editor said...

Unchosen continuation:


And, what was MORE amazing? How every time I looked into her hypnotic, kaleidoscope eyes I had the overwhelming urge to punch myself in the face.

Yeah.

Turns out the sadistic witch had a thing for humiliating ordinary guys like me.

So, as it turned out, she was EXACTLY like all the other beautiful girls.

--Veronica Rundell

Evil Editor said...

This starts out like New Beginning #6:

http://evileditor.blogspot.com/2006/07/new-beginning-6.html


There's too much ordinary. We get it. Your examples of ordinariness are general. It would be better if you specified what your part-time job and make of car were, rather than call them ordinary, but even so, there's no need to keep driving home the same point, especially when the point is that you are dullsville. We want to read about extraordinary people, so get to the extraordinary part before we give up on you.

And get rid of Well, like I said, they were pretty amazing.

IMHO said...

I like the premise - ordinary guy connects with extraordinary girl, but the writing is repetitious (e.g., "what a look it was" followed by "Well, like I said, they were pretty amazing").

Suggest ditching the first paragraph -- unnecessary and difficult to get through, with all the "wasn'ts" and "would'ves". Maybe even the second para - a main character telling me how ordinary he is doesn't entice me to read on. Show us he's ordinary, don't just say so in a paragraph.

Author said...

EEditor:

Thanks for the advice! I haven't done a novel in first person before, and the opening has definitely been the hardest part for me (past this point - once the extraordinary kicks in - has been a blast to write...if only I can get my reader there)

If I cut the second paragraphs completely and the last line, then first 200 becomes:

I wasn't what most people would've called "extraordinary." Scratch that – I wasn't what anyone would've called "extraordinary." Actually, I doubt they would've called me anything – they would've had to notice me first.

And extraordinary things never – I mean NEVER – happened to me.

Until the day I met her.

Yeah, like so many things, it all started with a girl. A beautiful girl. The kind of beautiful that would never look twice at a guy like me.

But this girl did.

And what a look it was. Her eyes weren't blue or green or hazel or brown or violet – they were all of those at once, encircling her pupils with slivers of color that spiraled inward to pour their brilliant hues into her soul.

It wasn't the most auspicious of "first-meets," I'll admit. I had just finished my last class of the day and was trying to figure out my homework schedule as I walked across the parking lot. Should I work on the inane Spanish project Ms. McDuffy had just handed me before, during, or after studying for my chemistry test and writing a 5-page paper on the symbolism in Macbeth and doing 45 trig problems and …there she was.

Dave Fragments said...

I'm so with EE. Too much of him being "ordinary."

Take these three sentences:
Until the day I met her.
Yeah, like so many things, it all started with a girl. A beautiful girl. The kind of beautiful that would never look twice at a guy like me.


I'd rather read these fewer words.
Until the day when she entered my life, a girl I thought wouldn't give me a look."

If that was the third paragraph, you might get away with the excesses of the first two paragraphs. I like the tone of the narrator. He sounds like the talkative kids I know who aren't sullen, uncommunicative lumps with electronic devices in their fingers, but the waterfall/fountain of wildly and unending teen angst when asked a question.
However, it works in a novel in staccato bursts rather than the real life endless and quite mind-numbing internal conversations of teens.

So trim it. Keep the tone (it's fun). and remember, the girl makes him extraordinary. Use that word and the word "ordinary" sparingly. And one more thing: give the reader a hint as what is to come. . .

BuffySquirrel said...

It might be an idea to give a hint as to why Amazing Girl looks at Joe Ordinary beyond 'because the author said so'.

Author said...

I submitted my (2nd) revised opening last night before the additional comments went up - just to let you know I wasn't ignoring the minions' suggestion to add some foreshadowing :-)

In its current, revised form, does it seem like enough, or do you think some hints and nudges would spice it up?

Author said...

Okay, I wish there was a way to edit posts that aren't posted yet (is that allowed/done at all?), but I would love to have this opening looked at instead of the 2nd one I sent yesterday (before the additional comments went up).

Here it is:

I remember the very first thought that went through my mind when I met Isabeau in my high school's parking lot: Hey, there's a pretty girl leaning on my car. I never said it was a brilliant thought, just that it was my first one.

Other thoughts came in time – like Why are we playing Putt Putt? And, What the---you just beat those guys up! And especially, Dude, you kidnapped me!

But that was later. First thoughts first. I had finished my last class of the day and was trying to figure out my homework schedule as I walked to my car. Should I study for my chemistry test before, during, or after writing a 5-page paper on the symbolism in Macbeth and doing 45 trig problems and…there she was. Leaning against my car, bouncing it just enough to make the shocks squeak, and tapping her fingers rhythmically on the hood. The sun painted the waves in her burnt red hair with streaks of gold, and her clothes – jeans and a sleeveless high-necked shirt – showed off her athletic figure.

I cleared my throat. "C-Can I help you?" Not the best line I've ever had, but, sadly, not the worst either.

Evil Editor said...

I would cut this down to something like:

School's out for the day and as I walk to my car I'm thinking Should I study for my chemistry test before, during, or after writing the 5-page paper on symbolism in Macbeth and doing the 45 trig problems? And I see her.

She's leaning against my car, tapping her fingers rhythmically on the hood. The sun paints waves in her burnt red hair with streaks of gold, and her clothes – jeans and a sleeveless high-necked shirt – show off her athletic figure.

I clear my throat. "Can I help you?" Lame, but better than most of my opening lines.



As for the present tense, it depends on whether it'll work for the whole book, and whether it makes you uncomfortable.

Veronica Rundell said...

Sounds like a fun read. I think it could still be tightened. Prune. Would he really think "there's a pretty girl leaning on my car?" or would he think "Damn. She's smokin'!" You can help us see this better, so SHOW it.
The homework quandary: shorten. Don't waste valuable real estate with this pedestrian stuff and get us to the interaction w/Isabeau faster.
Openings are hard. They kill you. Finish writing the whole thing then go back and revise the beginning. And then do it again, twenty more times. Move sentences around and see if that pushes the scene forward faster (it will) or sharpens the voice.
Also, one thing you've lost here is the underdog mystique you had going in the first drafts. Seemed as though this was a big character issue that is now lacking.

BuffySquirrel said...

Stop. Just stop. Stop rewriting it to try to please the minions and take a step back.

khazar-khum said...


Hemingway was the only author who could do that kind of repetition successfully. And he had a helluva time with it.

Lots of people attempt it. You know, the "on the last morning of Joe Dobbs life he got his usual coffee and his usual bagel at his usual place with his usual waitress." And on and on. It doesn't come across as style; it comes across as precious at best and pretentious at worst.

Bu6 if you have to use it, use it sparingly before someone throws your ordinary loser into the ordinary trash.

150 said...

You get your reader to the extraordinary by starting there.

Dave Fragments said...

A few years back EE used to post openings. This opening (the original) had the feel to me of I LOVE YOU, BETH COOPER by Larry Doyle. I bought the book as a gift and then discovered it was pimpled with "F" bombs and the kid's Mother would have killed me had I given it. It's kind of a panicked and manic narrative.

I Love You, Beth Cooper
By LARRY DOYLE

Denis Cooverman was sweating more than usual, and he usually sweat quite a bit.

For once, he was not the only one. The temperature in the gymnasium was 123 degrees; four people had been carried out and were presumed dead. They were not in fact dead, but it was preferable to think of them that way, slightly worse off, than contemplate the unbearable reality that Alicia Mitchell's ninety-two-year-old Nana, Steph Wu's overly kimonoed Aunt Kiko and Jacob Beber's roly-poly parents were currently enjoying cool drinks in the teacher's lounge with the air-conditioning set at 65 degrees.

Ed Munsch sat high in the bleachers, between his wife and a woman who smelled like boiled potatoes. Potatoes that had gone bad and then been boiled. Boiled green potatoes. Ed thought he might vomit, with any luck.

Anyone could see he was not a well man. His left hand trembled on his knee, his eyes slowly rolled, spiraling upward; he was about to let out the exact moan Mrs. Beber had just before she escaped when his wife told him to cut it out. "You're not leaving," she said.

"I'm dying," Ed countered.

"Even dead," said his wife, at ease with the concept. "For chrissakes, your only son is graduating from high school. It's not like he's going to graduate from anything else."

Tattoos of memories and dead skin on trial the Sullen Girl sang, wringing fresh bitterness from the already alkaline lyrics, her wispy quaver approximating a consumptive canary with love trouble and money problems.