Friday, August 18, 2006

New Beginning 81

The knock came at dusk. Olivia had just settled into her favorite chair, the one she'd patched with duct tape colored with markers to match the worn green leather. Her dinner, a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, balanced precariously on the arm of the chair; a book was cradled in her bare legs.

The knock was sharp, rattling the old, warped glass in the front door. She knew without looking who it was. They had come without their lights on, knowing that she would run. They had been right.

The book slid from her lap, the sandwich flipped onto the floor. Olivia was halfway up the stairs before the second knock came. She'd been preparing for this for almost six months, since that horrible day in Portland. Her fifteenth birthday had been far from happy.

It had started with the clown. Stan the Clown. Olivia had shoved cake in his face and cursed out her parents because HELLO! She was fifteen years old, not five. She should've had a cool band for her party.

The clown had not taken it well. As he'd wiped icing from his face, he'd sworn vengeance.

And now . . . the clownmobile was outside.

Continuation: Vampire Librarian


Anonymous said...

You definitely got my interest. I like the mundane details of the sandwich and duct tape.

One visual issue: not sure I liked knowing the door had glass, I hear about the glass and then she is running up the stairs, which makes me envision the intruder watching her do this through the glass.

As this stands, I dislike the last sentence; it sounds too understated and that makes it the wrong tone for me. But as we end here, I could be wrong on that. Nice stuff.

pacatrue said...

I thought the content of the writing on this one was fine. I like the details with the chair and the food, etc. My big question was why the bad people try to be sneaky by turning the car lights off and then knock on the door, albeit sharply. I could never get around that fact and my continuation attempts (not the one selected) all dealt with the silliness of the bad folk.

Anonymous said...

I wrote the continuation.

Wow, Evil Editor edits continuations a lot. It's interesting to see how he would write the same thing compared to what I had. Some of his changes I agree with; some I don't, but it's all small stuff.

Anonymous said...

Pacatrue, I figured the bad guys were a little silly with how they try to hide but don't. Clowns seemed likely culprits.

Feisty said...

That's a good one. I tried to write an ending to it, but I just couldn't do it justice. I'm glad someone else did.

Anonymous said...

A bit of clarification about the bad folks... they're actually the police!

The lights are referring to the lights atop the police car. I've actually revised this sentence to replace the lights with sirens. I think it's much more clear.

Love the continuation. Clown vengence! I wish I'd thought of that.

none said...

Why do I have the awful feeling this opening is heading for a flashback? Resist!

MaNiC MoMMy™ said...

Good details. Can picture the duct-taped chair, and sandwich flipping onto the ground.

I definitely want to know what REALLY happens to this fifteen-year-old.

Anonymous said...

I really like the easy, concise writing style. The beginning isn't riveting though. Perhaps if you started with the knock on the door?

Anonymous said...

Author, changing lights to sirens makes a lot more sense. It is an interesting beginning, but the detail about the duct tape seems a little too much.

Anonymous said...

I liked this beginning very much! (And I'm so crushed, well okay - maybe not really, that my ending didn't get chosen; it was birthday-party-themed also.)

I thought the first paragraph really painted the circumstances the protagonist was living in well, and illuminated something of her character also. Putting the knock on the door in the first sentence was ideal, in that it lets us know something is about to happen. Without it, the first paragraph would seem like wasted time. As it is, I thought it very skillful.

I do agree with buffysquirrel that the last sentence makes it sound as if the story is right on the brink of a flashback. Let the rodents chorus together: Resist!

You've got too much forward momentum to kill it all with a flashback here. Save the backstory for later, or weave it in subtly.

Bernita said...

The duck taped chair detail sticks out like a self-conscious detail.
Why not have her settle in the chair with the book across her bare legs?
"cradled in" is awkward.
How about "the sharp knock rattled...?"
and her "peanut butter and jelly sandwich balanced...?"
We already know it's evening, so the sandwich is either dinner or a snack.
And you could eliminate an "ing" by a short sentence.
"They knew she would run."

Evil Editor said...

Wow, Evil Editor edits continuations a lot.

Evil Editor does edit, for several reasons. Sometimes for an extra laugh, as with NB 74, where I added the last line. Sometimes two minions will each suggest something and I'll combine their ideas, as in NB 77, when one minion had the sourdough line and another had the ferry line. Sometimes I'll write the whole thing, if no one else seems to have a funny idea (as with NB 76).
But mostly I edit to try to keep the tone consistent with that of the original author. In # 81, I mainly took out the phrase "What kind of clown names himself Stan?"
It's mildly amusing, but it wasn't something the character would be thinking after the knock on the door, and it didn't have the "imminent danger" feel of the rest.

I get a lot of funny submissions, but I prefer the ones that sound like the author could have written them--until the payoff.

HawkOwl said...

OMG I totally want to read the thing with the clown!

Other than that, meh. The ambiance was pretty well done until we find out she's fifteen years and six months old. That made me no longer care that I wasn't relating to the character. It felt like too much effort was put into trying to make me like her. Plus, it sounds like she jumps up and runs, making a lot of noise. If she's been preparing for this for six months, why doesn't she get up quietly? And take her sandwich? Why is she making it obvious that she IS in the house, instead of doing what she can to put them off the scent?

Anonymous said...

I disagree with S.A. Hunter about the duct tape; the minute I read that, I knew that I was reading about someone younger, and it set the tone well. It gave me a little bit of insight into the girl, even though you hadn't even mentioned her at that point yet.

Anonymous said...

I was definitely intrigued by this opening - I want to know what she's done, who's after her and what they're gonna do to her. *gasp*

I was thrown by the first two paragraphs opening with "the knock." And the final line of the original opening - "her fifteenth birthday..." seemed a little flippant compared to the tension of the previous paragraphs. But besides that, it piqued my interest and I want to know more about Olivia.

Anonymous said...

Sirens? Ex-cop here. Unless it is life-threatening, they wouldn't use sirens at all. Sirens are only for clearing traffic out of your way.

Anonymous said...

Haven't you guys seen Red Green? Duct tape rules! I use it for everything and I'm almost 50.

Anonymous said...

Duct tape does rule. Wrap it inside out around your body, roll in grass clippings, and you're an instant Chia Pet. How's that for a unique Hallowe'en costume?

Word veri: xzxzsp. The sound duct tape makes when you pull a strip off the roll.

HawkOwl said...

Anonymous ex-cop: I was gonna say that too, but then I thought it's quite in character for a fifteen-year-old to expect the cops to go everywhere with sirens blazing. Only later in life do you realize that when they come to your house, they drive much the same as everybody else.

Anonymous said...

hawkowl, I agree with you, but as presented, lights/sirens would be an observation, not an expectation.


Anonymous said...

I just knew the conversation would steer to duct tape. I'm no spring chicken myself, but my genuine imitation vinyl loveseat is liberally adorned with duct tape and unsuccessfully camouflaged with brown marker. I gave up and bought more imitation leather and glued the whole thing on.
Love Red Green. I like their motto: I'm a man, and I can change. If I have to. I guess.

Anonymous said...

I'd keep reading.

I like the first paragraph a lot. Olivia is settled in and then disturbed.

I'm not thrilled about "they had come without their lights on..." Could be the "had come" instead of "came" construction. Could be that it's dusk and the car would still be visible without headlights. Some people routinely drive at dusk without headlights, waiting until it's darker.

The mother in me cringes at the sandwich flipped on the floor. I want to pick it up! (and I want Olivia to pick it up, to cover her tracks).

And I don't much like "she'd been preparing for this..." either. Is she caught off-guard or not? Now I'm not sure.

But I'd keep reading. There's a story here, and I'm interested.

Anonymous said...

I also like the details. Any story with duct tape is great. I would keep reading. I think Patrick Bateman used it a lot, didn't he? Or, was that a nail gun? -JTC

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your comments everyone, I really appreciate the time everyone took to read, and comment on, my beginning.

BTW, no flashbacks, I promise! To prove it, here is the next 150.


Olivia's bedroom faced the street, and though the sun was fading, she didn't turn on the light. A buzz of voices from below floated up and was muffled by her window, shut tight against the thick summer air. She knelt down, pulling the small suitcase from beneath her bed. Scattered pieces of cat food bit into her knees.

"Ziggy," she called in a whisper as she peeled the cat food from her skin. "Let's go, Ziggy."

Two yellow eyes followed by a shadowed body inched into the room, hugging the door frame. Ziggy always came when called - like a dog - but hesitantly, with a cat's suspicious mind. Olivia scooped him up before he could slink away. He resisted as she guided him inside his carrier, landing one good scratch on the back of Olivia's hand before she latched the door closed.

Olivia rubbed the sting from the scratch. A deep voice called her name from the lawn below.

Anonymous said...

I'd definitely keep reading here. Just one thought, although I don't know the correct answer. Wouldn't the cops announce that it's them at the door? Or have I just seen too many cop shows?

Great stuff so far. I wouldn't change much at all, including the duct tape.