Monday, August 21, 2006

New Beginning 86

The girl arrived in a cab. Samantha greeted her at the door, hung the young lady's coat on the antique coat tree in the foyer, and guided her into the living room.

"This is Alex."

Alex Vanderhoff stood and extended his hand.

"Christina," the girl said, taking it. Barely more than a girl, Samantha thought. The agency that sent her guaranteed all of their girls, ensured a vigorous background check, including proof of legal age and a health certificate from a private physician. Anyone with a criminal record was turned away. This girl should have been a model. Blonde hair that grazed her breasts, a pale pink complexion and eyes the color of the Arctic sea, she possessed classic American beauty. Exactly what Samantha had ordered.

Standing by the sofa, her arms at her sides, not appearing to be nervous but cautious nonetheless, the girl asked, "Do you have any rules for me?"

Samantha stiffened, shot the girl a look. "Of course there are rules."

"I have experience."

Samantha doubted it. Too late to request another. She stared at the girl. "No games, understand? And no sweets or fizzy sodas - makes Alex windy - and have him in bed by seven."

Opening: Cheryl Mills.....Continuation: Stargazer


pacatrue said...

I laughed out loud at the continuation this time around. I think that's both because of the quality of the continuation and the quality of the original. The original made me somewhat tense and nervous, which then let the baby sitting twist be very effective. So mostly just kudos to both authors.

Someone may say that you should mention the girl's name, but I definitely like it the way it is. Despite the complimentary description from Samantha of the girl, always simply calling her "the girl" (when I bet the agency did in fact give Samantha a name for the person she had hired), and not "the woman", and describing her like something of a piece of meat tells us a lot about Samantha. I would read on. I think the writing is fairly tight. The only question would be, "are you setting up the right tone for the rest of the book?" which I can't answer. My guess is that the girl doesn't live past chapter one.

Personally, I'm not a big fan of books where beautiful young women get chopped up, but lots of other people love them. That's my problem, not the authors.

Bernita said...

In this decadent age one wonders if Samantha is a female pimp.
I would read more just to find out what's going on.
Thought it was only classic English roses who were so fair and pale.

writtenwyrdd said...

The description of settings and dialog are good. The writing itself is clear, good voice and clear characterization of Samantha. (I already don't like the haughty woman.) I do find myself interested and would continue longer to learn what is going on here. I can't tell from this what the genre is, but it could be mainstream fiction, mystery, erotica - practically anything.

There is something that really bugs me, though. Although this snippet tells a lot about Samantha, it tells too little about "the girl". The focus is on "the girl" from the first sentence - implying she, not Samantha, is the main character.

However, although we learn her appearance, details of dress and economic background, we know nothing about "the girl's" rolet. (The situation implies she's a hooker and Samantha is the procuress. Please say it ain't so!)

Your deliberate withholding of facts from me the reader causes you the writer to come to the fore, not the story. Your voice comes through, and it feels like you're not being honest with me, like I'll shortly discover I've been fooled and I'm the butt of your joke.

If the gal isn't a hooker, you might wish to aim the reader toward the right conclusion. The simplest means would be to mention something of her role, like Sam observes she should be knocking at the rear door if she is a maid, etc. Regardless of what she is, a bit of tweaking can clarify and likely fix anything that's broke.

Anonymous said...

This didn't make me tense or nervous. It did make me yawn.

HawkOwl said...

So is that to say her eyes are slate grey, or white? The Arctic Ocean is more often white than not. Maybe that explains why she has to be "guided" into the living room rather than "shown," though. Nasty cataract problem.

Anonymous said...

I thought the writing was fabulous. (Good variation in sentence length. Enough detail, but not overwhelming. A situation that's unfolding. Insight into Samantha.)

A small quibble-"classic American beauty"-is there such a thing? I think you alienate half or more of all American women by saying that a classic American beauty is a blonde, blue-eyed, white girl-woman.

I hate pimps, of any gender, so this is not my cup of tea and I wouldn't keep reading. But the writing works. (

LOL at the continuation.

Kathleen said...

I really really liked the first sentence. The rest of it didn't quite hold up or match it, especially the really long sentences, "antique coat rack", etc.

I agree with the blonde/blue-eyed/classic American beauty comment above. Just food for thought, I am sure a lot of people would disagree, but it does make me cringe a bit.

I also really didn't like the "Barely more than a girl" thought - she has already been referred to as a girl a couple times (and then is again). So does this mean she isn't a girl? because she is more than a girl? then why keep referring to her as a girl? in short, I just can't tell what you are trying to convey with that.

Stacia said...

I really liked this! I'm definitely intrigued, and the writing spoke to me.

...except the description of the girl. The hair grazing her breasts didn't work for me (maybe if it just covered the rounded curves of her bosom?), nor did the pink complexion. Perhaps because I tend towards the pink (I have very sensitive skin) and believe me, it ain't attractive. :-) I'd go for pale and delicate instead. Milky. Pure. Creamy. Icy pale. Ivory, and smooth as buttercream frosting. Okay, maybe that last one isn't great, but you get the point. Even just saying "perfect" gives us a better impression.

pacatrue said...

I also disagreed myself with categorizing blue-eyed pale blonde white girls as classically American (I think that's more the stereotype of Sweden perhaps, if you have to choose a stereotype?) but the important thing is whether or not that's what Samantha thinks is the classic American beauty, since it is her perception we are getting. It adds a bit of racism or unconscious bias at least to her character. Hopefully, of course, Samantha is the person we are supposed to be learning about, and not "the girl".

On the other hand about the blonde thing, Samantha's view seems to be shared by a lot of women. Tons of Asian-American female memoir stuff talks about how they always thought they needed to be blonde and pale to ever be considered attractive in the U.S. And there's a reason that we see thousands and thousands of women with blonde hair and dark roots....

PJD said...

I think this is well done and leaves us wondering what, exactly, has walked into the room. Science fiction: she's a robot. Literary fiction: maybe she's a nurse. Dickens: She's Alex's long-lost daughter. Chick-lit: she's a personal shopper. Fantasy: She's a vampire. Young adult: she's the babysitter. So many possibilities!

Anyway, I did not at all dislike the "classic American beauty" thing. It clearly says something very strong about the POV character. Maybe all y'all don't like that point of view, but it's certainly possible that the POV character thinks that way. Clearly, blonde blue-eyed model type is what was ordered, which gives us more depth to the setting and house with the antique coat tree and foyer.

Why is she a girl in a cab and then suddenly a "young lady"? Is that meant to show transition from gritty street urchin to sophisticated debutante? (Dickens, I guess.)

Anonymous said...

I see I'm not the only one whose brain tripped over that description of a stereotypically Scandinavian-looking woman as having classic American beauty. If you ask me to picture a woman with classic American beauty, I don't picture a near-albino, or a model.

But that's one of the few things that bothered me about this beginning. It's an aloof and creepy little bit of writing, and I thought it worked quite well.

Anonymous said...

I liked it--a lot. I would read on.

As to that classic American beauty thang. I got that immediately. A weekly glance at the tabloids tells us what's considered beautiful, and if you're not blond . . . well, get thee to a colorist.

Anonymous said...

I also had a major problem with the classic American beauty description. That and the 'grazed her breasts'.

If those are the perceptions of the POV character, then I have a question:

Does anyone actually use those terms/descriptions when thinking?


Brenda said...

If she's not there as a hooker, may want to change it up some. My first thought - erotica.

As someone with very dark brown hair and blue eyes - and would rather slit my wrist than have blonde hair (I have a t-shirt that reads, "I had a nightmare I was a blonde."), I had no problem at all with her being described as a classic American beauty. Why? [i]Because it's the POV character's idea of "classic American beauty", not OURS, the readers.[/i] Doesn't matter what we think - we are given insight (good insight too!).

The writing is well done, concise and I'd continue reading on. Well done (assuming she's a hooker!)

Anonymous said...

I would read on. It is easy to read and I am curious to see what the deal is. -JTC

Beth said...

I think I'm the only one so far bothered by the fact that the first line of dialogue is unattributed. I guessed that it was probably Samantha speaking, but I also thought Alex was the name of the girl and she was being introduced to someone in the room. The mystery was very shortly solved, but it was enough to jar me out of the scene.

Also, the lack of description of "the living room" is a problem; who knew there was anyone in it until Alex Vanderhoof stood up. And then he is not described either, so I have no clue about him--he could be any age at all.

Overall, this needs more fleshing out.

writtenwyrdd said...

I was just thumbing through "You Can Write a Novel" and ran across one of his "Cardinal Rules" which explains my sense of what is wrong.

"34. Play Fair. Don't withhold details crucial to understanding the story just so you can spring a surprise later."

That's the feeling I got. Although I basically liked this, I felt like you were setting me up for a surprise.

Kathleen said...

Re: classic American beauty.

It just wasn't at all clear to me that this was Samantha's POV, and her description, rather than the author's.

If the intent is to convey Samantha's POV, then I think it needs to be done better. If it is just the author's words, and done somewhat unthinkingly (as I suspect), then I think the negative comments about the use of "classic American beauty" are relevant, and important.

Anonymous said...

Wow, Beth. Should the author have used the first 150 words to give you a physical description of Alex and the living room?

Anonymous said...

Classic American beauty didn't bother me because it was obviously the pov character's opinion.

Anonymous said...

Fantastic opening. I'm definitely reading on. I'm guessing she's a hooker, but I don't think Alex and Samantha intend to use her as such. Just a hunch.

Couple things to consider:

1. Not giving an attribution to the opening line of dialog stopped me. "This is Alex." I thought the girl from the cab was Alex. But I couldn't figure out who was saying the line to whom. If fixes quickly, granted, so I'm just saying to decide if you're married to the name Alex.

2. This might just be from formatting on EE's blog, but I'd start a new paragraph at "Barely more than a girl ..." Great insight into Sam's character, by the way.

3. I've never been to the Arctic sea. In fact, my geography- challenged mind thought the Arctic was only an ocean. Either way, I'm assuming the color to be blue or green or aqua. In any event, it takes me out of the story, so I'd like it changed if you're asking.

Great stuff. Keep going.

Bernita said...

Yes, the introduction is a problem.
An employee is usually introduced to the employer, not the other way around.