Wednesday, August 21, 2013

New Beginning 1013

"I want a divorce.” Ruby stared at the ceiling from her bed as she listened to the creaky furnace kick on. She inhaled on a non-filtered cigarette and blew a plume of smoke out between her lips as frozen slush bounced off the window above her head. The evening before had started with clear skies and diamond bright stars.

“You’ve got to be kidding? We’re not even legally married.” The love of Ruby’s life swung out of the bed they shared, bare feet hit the floor, and stepped into a pair of plain boxers.

She glanced over as her partner pulled on a stained wife-beater. “Whatever—you’ve cheated again, and I can’t stand it. What about the children? Did you ever think of them?” Ruby paused and studied the muscles rippling beneath the under shirt. “When are you going to grow up?”

The flick of a lighter and bubbles through a water pipe answered her question.

“I hate you.” This wasn’t the first time Ruby found out about an indiscretion. Over the past three years she had found evidence of at least five affairs--which she knew of. “Don’t you have anything to say to me?”

"Yeah, I've got this to say," came the reply, followed by a long toke on the bong. Ruby guessed this might take a while. She knew there was at least an ounce of weed in baggies on the dresser, not counting any she didn't know about.

"You want a divorce, well now you can have a divorce. We can go down to City Hall, get married, and then file for divorce, just like anyone else." The pipe bubbled again as a red glow swelled and ebbed. A note of pride tinged Amber's giggle as she added, "The Supreme Court of the US of A says we're as worthy of divorce as any of those straight bastards."

Opening: Kregger.....Continuation: John


Evil Editor said...

Unchosen Continuations:

“Ruby, I've got over 2200 masters points. A few more and I’m a Gold Life Master. If cheating gets me there, I’m cheating.”

“What about the affairs? What if the children find out you’re bi?”

“I’m not bisexual. I’m just screwing the little bitches that run the tournaments. They talk a good game and can’t play for shit. It’s a real player they want and I’ll do whatever it takes to get to Gold Lifer.”

“A real cheater, you mean. And that’s what you said about Silver -- and Bronze before that.”

John sighed, “Oh, forgot to tell you, Saturday we’re going to Malby’s place in Cheltenham. Got to leave early – around six.”

“Crapper”, Ruby said.

“Thought you liked six.”

“Sex, not six. And you’ll have to knock me up.”

“And speaking of sex, could you possibly do the Earl while I do Lady Malbrey? He’s hot on you, you know.”

“Great. I get a bag of bones and you get his trophy chick?”

“It’d help ever so in the regional T next month.”

“Bridge, bridge, bridge! I’m sick of it I tell you.”

“You wanted me to stick to Old Maid. I’m doing it all for us, Ruby. What status would we have at the old leather and mahogany barons club? ‘Hullo, I’m Bound, John Bound. And I’m world class Old Maid champion.’ And your Dad, Lord Frugal; I can hear him now, ‘So, Johnny, how’s it with the Old Maids?’”

--Mister Furkles

He exhaled a cloud of smoke. "What'd you expect--" he paused to suck again from the bong, "--when you seduced your 14-year-old student? And quit calling my classmates 'the children.' That's psycho, dude."


Ruby watched as he slipped his feet into a pair of scuffed crocs. She took another drag and blew the smoke out her nostrils as sleet pattered on the street below. The forecast was for even lower temperatures, blizzards and scattered ice storms.

He pulled out his Tamagotchi and fed it.

She switched to a filtered, menthol job, sucking it in deeply as, two blocks away, a car skidded on black ice and took out a mailbox. She expelled the smoke out her ears. "Anything? Anything at all?"

"Yeah. How do you do that?"

--Paul Penna

"Yeah." He took a long, slow drag. "We gotta be patient. Can't let Ruby know about us. OK, Lisa?"


"Yeah." Snatching up her dress, she cramming her boobs into place, she shouted from the hall, "This time I am taking my love to town!"


Evil Editor said...

P1: No need to describe slush as frozen. You probably mean sleet, but in any case, the word "slush" by itself indicates a level of "frozenness."

Probably doesn't matter to anyone, but "above her head" could mean a skylight. Does it? You could say behind her head. That the window is higher than her head will be assumed from the fact that she's in bed and it's a window.

P2: Change question mark to exclamation point or sentence to Are you kidding?

Change first comma to semicolon or "hit" to "hitting." Assuming we need to be told that the feet of someone getting out of bed hit the floor.

P3: If you're studying the rippling muscles of someone wearing a sleeveless shirt, wouldn't you go with the arms rather than the ones under the shirt? It's not like she never gets to see the stomach muscles when there's no shirt.

"you’ve cheated again, and I can’t stand it." would make more sense after the second time. If it's happened at least five other times, apparently she can stand it.

The boxers and wife-beater and children suggest a man, but the lack of any male pronouns or a name makes me suspicious that the continuation author is on to something. Not sure I'd want to be tricked on page 1.

Dave Fragments said...

I thought the clues that her partner was a man were boxers and wife-beater t-shirt. Those are hints to an abusive husband and of course a cliché. Two women having this type of discussion would be a twist on the cheating lover. More of a twist would be if Ruby were a pre-op transgender person sleeping in bed with the jerk of a guy she’s living with. Now that would be a different story. And a helluva backstory with kids involved.

Back to the opening.

The task is to present an uncaring, silent partner without naming him or her and without giving gender clues.

All the elements are there on the page. I think they just need a bit of rearrangement. It's a think first.

The first thing I would do is set the scene -- cheap flat, creaky furnace, cigarettes in bed in the wee hours of the morning. The weather is significant and reflects not the hotbed of passion but the cold fires of just struggling to keep it all together and maybe it will turn to the good {!} …
And so Ruby tries to get the uncommunicative lump to talk. That's the reason for The Divorce bomb.

That doesn’t get a response but it does get the “uncaring coldness” to light up a doobie or a bong. Keep on trucking as the freaks say.

So Ruby tries again with the “affair bomb” and there is still uncaring or clueless or simply disgusted silence. Her partner stays silent letting her carry on about nothing or simply have an emotional outburst.
She might be pregnant (again?).

You see, the "body" (flesh, muscles, clothing) is all hot and sunny but the mental attitude is cold and snowy and for Ruby to fight the uncaring silence, you need something to stand in for the body. The silent one can’t be hot muscles of rippling flesh but the cold, chiseled hard muscles of heartlessness and silence.

At least for this morning.

If this were my opening, I might revise it like this:

Ruby lay in bed, staring at the ceiling, listening to the furnace and smoking. Sleet and freezing rain bounced off the window next the bed. The evening before had started with clear skies and diamond bright stars.

"I want a divorce,” she said.

“You’ve got to be kidding? We’re not even legally married.” The love of Ruby’s life swung out of the bed they shared, bare feet hit the floor, and stepped into a pair of plain boxers. The flick of a lighter and bubbles through a water pipe answered her question. Ruby studied the rippling muscles, their uncaring and cold hardness.

“Whatever—you’ve cheated again, and I can’t stand it. What about the children? Did you ever think of them?” This wasn’t the first time Ruby discovered an indiscretion. There were five over the past three years, maybe more. The creak of the furnace broke/filled the silence, the only warmth in the room.

“Don’t you have anything to say? I hate you,” she added.

That’s my suggestions.

AlaskaRavenclaw said...

Okay, maybe it's a matter of traveling in the wrong circles, but I've never heard anyone over the age of thirteen say "I hate you." If an adult did say it, it's hard to believe she'd expect the conversation to continue from there.

The dialogue just falls flat. It doesn't sound like how people talk.

By the way, I'm going to assume Ruby is male, despite the feminine pronoun. Men seem to be able to simultaneously admire a person's hotness while admitting said person is pretty much a wash as a human being. Women tend to lack that ability.

/sits back and waits to be told she's missing the wonderful humor again

Evil Editor said...

A man can be hot and a wash as a human being. A hot woman has obvious redeeming qualities.

AlaskaRavenclaw said...

A man can be hot and a wash as a human being.

Probably to another man. But it's not objective hotness I'm doubting, but hotness-in-the-moment. Even if Ruby thinks the hatee-of-unknown-gender is hot, I doubt her ability to think s/he's hot at the the same time that she's reflecting on his/her infidelities, hatability, and general divorceworthiness.

It's possible, I suppose. It just seems unlikely.

Veronica Rundell said...

Sometimes I'm glad my comments get lost on this site.

My first comment on this opening reflected my distaste for the characters and lack of interest in the story...

There was also discourse on the purpleness of the prose, and repetition which bogged the narrative.

All this is still true, but I have a second chance to say it in less harsh terms.

Author, your characters aren't sympathetic. And the tone puts me right off.

I read a killer ton of women's fic. I'd not like my protag to be so weak. I want a gal to root for, and Ruby lacks spark.

The dialogue sounds stilted. I get the tension, but the repetition and the juvenile diction negate that.

If the characters aren't married, why would Ruby suggest divorce? Logically, this makes no sense. She might suggest separation, breaking up, or the like, but divorce is pretty specific. It implies a marriage has occurred. It makes me think Ruby is an untrustworthy narrator, yet another strike against her.

Perhaps this is a redemption tale. If so, great, but either way I'm not hooked.

Sorry if the first comment is resurrected and abrasive. Didn't sleep much and had an acute attack of crabbiness...

Good luck.

AlaskaRavenclaw said...

In fact, think of the 2008 election... there were a lot of men who, though they thought Sarah Palin was hot, admitted they would have to emigrate to Mars if she were elected vice-president.

Whereas I know a number of women who thought the election of Barack Obama meant the End Times, the Tribulation and the Rapture. And not a single one of 'em was interested in any Rapture with Mr. Obama.

(This despite the fact that Mr. Obama is demonstrably hotter than Ms. Palin. Or, anyway, he was at the time. He's kept his figure, but we hardly ever see that sunny smile anymore.)

/back to work

Evil Editor said...

Why are we talking about the election? Oh, right, because you missed the humor again.

Dave Fragments said...

I don't think Sarah Palin has anything to do with this opening. As for women who like "cheaters" and "Bad Boys," they are out there in sad proliferation. I've heard women on the news defending San Diego Mayo Bob Filner. That's way to far afield for this discussion.

Ruby's bedmate is not talking to her. They are having an argument, a very bad argument. Him or her, the person is cheating on Ruby but she's taken that person back to her bed. They have 80K words to redeem themselves and turn their lives around. It might be an interesting journey for the couple.

I've known a few "bad boys" in my time and they are certainly fun -- the wrong kind of fun but fun nevertheless.

This opening should be streamlined and tightened to reflect their conflict better. However, I'm not going to be junking the entire novel based on these 200 words.

AlaskaRavenclaw said...

Veronica, if EE doesn't accuse you of missing the humor about the divorce, then I'm gonna accuse him of playing favorites. I'm pretty sure the divorce was at least as funny as John McCain saying "That One."

Writer, "she had found evidence of at least five affairs--which she knew of" is an example of repetition.

Mister Furkles said...

The only problem I see in this first page is the first paragraph ending with the weather. I’d drop that from the first paragraph and insert a new paragraph between the first two. That can mention the weather with something about the dingy apartment.

To me it is the beginning of a literary fiction story. But it could be a murder mystery, women’s fiction, dystopia of some kind, or even a thriller. For literary fiction, historically based fiction, and some other genres, you don’t need to like the main character. Because we don’t know the genre, it doesn’t matter whether we like Ruby. Heck, this is the first page; maybe neither of these are major characters.

I don’t mind Ruby saying she can’t stand it because she is talking. If the author said she couldn’t stand it after five other affairs that would be different.

Veronica Rundell said...

Alaska, I didn't catch the humor here. It read flat and dismal. If it's lit fic, okay, but I'm still not biting.

I got enough misery in my life. I certainly don't need Ruby's train wrecked relationship bringing me down.

Streamline this puppy and add an emotional component that compels vs. repels and I can get back on board...

CavalierdeNuit said...

(I was reading the continuations in an airport this morning and had to suppress crazy laughter.)

Any woman who knows about five affairs and does nothing until now is a weak character. Fool me once... And she's repetitive about it. There are billions of men out there, and no reason to cling to one, unless he really loves you. What it's in for her if she stays with her partner (sounds like a hot playboy with complete disregard for his conquests)?

Also, saying "I don't like/want you anymore" is much harsher than saying "I hate you" or "I want a divorce".

Here is an example of how you could do a little trimming, and I think your opening needs some:

"She inhaled on a non-filtered cigarette and blew a plume of smoke out between her lips"

What did she inhale her cigarette with other than her mouth? Are you referring to her other lips?

She inhaled her non-filtered cigarette and blew a plume of smoke.

Is your character afraid to leave her oppressor due to low self-esteem? If so, I think I see where it's going.

khazar-khum said...

I didn't see anything, anywhere, that said she was married to the cheating SOB.

Just chew on that a bit.

kregger said...

Hi guys and gals,

Sorry about the delay, but I've been out in the middle of Lake Michigan without internet connection. I love the comments and I will be back soon to comment and not defend my story.

kregger said...

John hit the nail on the head. This is a same-sex couple. I hid the abusive partner's gender on purpose. It seems I was successful at portraying Ruby as a passive-aggressive whiner with low self esteem. I like to misdirect the readers, like using male attributes for a woman, but I would never intentionally label a character with the wrong gender. In today’s world of androgynous and wildly creative first names I picked a name that can’t or shouldn’t be construed as a guy. I am, however, not fluent in any transgender writing styles where that device may be used.

There is absolutely no humor in the first 200 words. Nothing missed. The humor begins when the latest girlfriend calls to share the abusive partner.

Does anyone else wish they could have read Veronica's first post? One of my favorite critters read an anonymous story of mine that he hated. After writing a scathing critique and finding out I was the author, he offered to change his critique to be less acerbic. I told him, absolutely not. Veronica's truth is as important to me my friend’s honest critique.

The weather thing was scene and mood setting. This story could not be set anywhere without tons of snow.

I could easily dispense with the cigarette smoking in bed. It’s a device to show low class behavior as is pot smoking, wife beaters, and wife/significant other beating.

If I could find a woman that can blow smoke, especially smoke rings, as Cavalier de Nuit has suggested, I would marry her, join Barnum and Bailey’s, and quit my day job.

This has been fun. I’ve been playing along with “Guess the Plot” and thought I would throw in a beginning with “Continue Someone’s Opening”. Again, sorry about the delay, but I was on Beaver Island doing research. This beginning is from a short story that I was never able to develop into anything else. Most of you have intuited why. I’m sure no one is ever going to accuse me of writing chick lit or romance.

woman that can blow smoke said...

"If I could find a woman that can blow smoke, especially smoke rings,[...], I would marry her"

have you considered she might not want to marry you?

kregger said...


I still can't figure out why the last two wanted to marry me.