Friday, August 25, 2006
New Beginning 89
Bad Thing Coming
Fall in northern Arizona is crisp and bright and filled with the promise of change and change was why she came home.
Lindsey Hunt walked across the leaf-strewn NAU campus and into the faculty office building. Matt was there, in the lobby, chatting with a pretty coed. She stood watching the exchange, marveling at the irony of it and remembering that first day, all those years ago, when she’d been the pretty coed.
He saw her, grinned and excused himself. “You look good Lindsey,” he said, crossing the room and engulfing her in a hug.
She steeled herself against the familiar response to the feel and smell of her now ex-husband. “You too Matt…damn it.”
He laughed, took her arm and led her down the hall into his office. “Have a seat. I’ve got everything ready for you.”
She sat, watching as he rounded the desk and sat across from her. The defused sunlight from the window behind him erased the years, reminding her exactly how she’d felt, that first day.
Matt took a breath. "How can I help you, miss?" he began, straightening his posture and patting down the front of his shirt.
"I left . . ." she stammered, falling into the familiar part, "I left two shirts and a pair of slacks last Tuesday." She looked up into his eyes. "I'd like to pick them up now."
Matt gave a soft smile and reached out his hand. "Do you have your stub, miss?"
No one could play Dry Cleaner like Matt. No one.
Opening: anonymous.....Continuation: Jason
Posted by Evil Editor at 8:46 AM
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let me point out what I mean by "to many words" or excess words (After all, you guys pick on me for saying hald as many words) ...
"change was why she came home" is redundant.
"leaf-strewn" is established in the first sentence.
"was there, in the lobby, chatting..." can be "stood chatting with a pretty coed"
"She stood watching" - "she watched"
"marveling at the irony of it and remembering that first day..." can be said "and remembered when she was the pretty coed"
So the first two paragraphs become:
"Fall in Northern Arizona is bright, crisp and filled with the promise of change.
Lindsay Hunt walked across the campus to the faculty building. Matt stood in the lobby chatting with a pretty coed. She watched and remembered when she was the pretty coed"
44 words to the original compared to 73 (I hope my math is right) and I hope this exercise retains what the author wanted to say and his or her tone.
Doesn't really look like my genre, so I wouldn't read on regardless, but some points anyway.
1) Irony in pgph 2. Is it ironic? Do you think? I don't think the ex-wife watching the new flame is exactly ironic. Maybe unpleasant for the ex-wife. Now if as a co-ed she had hugged this guy in front of his old ex-wife, then that would be ironic.
2) Line starting with she steeled herself. "Her now ex-husband" seems forced. Let it come out organically later. Her dialogue also feels fake. Unless he's asked her to come here for some mildly irritating task, either ramp up the language, or just have her exchange pleasantries coldly.
3) How does defuse sunlight erase the years?
If this is chick-lit or women's lit, you've got to get your character right at the start, since the action itself is pretty boring. If it's not - as the title seems to hint at - start somewhere a bit more actiony/suspensy.
The opening line is pretty decent though.
I'd lose "all those years ago," put a comma in "you look good Lindsey," which he wouldn't say while crossing the lobby (not room, lobby), probably hyphenate "now" to "ex" and get rid of "damn it," and definitely replace "defused," which is what one does to bombs, with "diffused" which is what shades do to sunlight. Overall, though, the writing is competent.
Plot - Is this gonna be about this woman's life after divorce? If so I'd want to start with something more traumatic. There isn't really anything going on in this scene. If the divorce isn't gonna be central to the story somehow, I'd ditch this whole scene and start with something closer to the action.
I might read more if the back copy is catchy.
I like this a lot, but that first sentence threw me. I figure you meant something like the autumn air was a good omen. Why not say that? "Fall in northern Arizona is crisp and bright and filled with the promise of change. It was a good omen for her first day back," or whatever.
Overall, very interesting. I picked up a lot of information regarding your character and even the backstory of her relationship. I was fairly sure Matt would be an ex of some sort before you stated it.
Good job. BTW, this feels like a romance.
Dave, I agree there are some excess words, but your version was more like a buzz cut than a trim. :) For instance, that phrase "Marveling at the irony of it" says something about her and her situation (and presumably we'll learn more later). You lose an entire layer by removing that.
What I felt lacking, actually, was specificity. "Pretty coed" is too abstract. The setting is very generalized. Some of the language is cliche (steeled herself) or misused (not defused sunlight but diffuse sunlight).
But--there's something here that would keep me reading past this point. It's quiet opening, but I'm curious about why she's meeting him here.
P.S. One thing did ring a false note and that was the fact that her ex-husband hugs her. Men don't do that, as a rule, not unless they're a close relative (and sometimes not even then) or they're trying to get physical. Now maybe he is, actually. But if not, the writer might want to reconsider that. A little stiffness or reserve might be more natural under the circumstances.
The beginning reads like a typical and mild romance opener; the title does not.
As Dave suggested, make those verbs active and strong.
As usual, I love it. But I really like the ending.
There must be something wrong with me if I can't pick on the posted writing.
I guess I always figure that things will change after revising, rewriting, editing.
I agree with you on this one, dave.
Also, why does she care if her ex looks good or not?
"She steeled herself against the familiar response to the feel and smell of her now ex-husband. “You too Matt…damn it.”"
One thing did ring a false note and that was the fact that her ex-husband hugs her.
Beg to differ. I've known guys who do this, specifically because it's annoying. "See, I'm over it and not at all bitter. I can act just like we're friendly acquaintances." It's a power play.
So it rang true to me. I agree that the second sentence should be cut, and possibly the first, since it doesn't seem to fit the tone of the rest of it. Not a genre that interests me, but the writing is otherwise fine. The guy seems like a jerk; I hope she's not going to get back together with him over the course of the book.
I can tell you really like that sweeping rhythm of the first sentence. I do, too. As for repetitions "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times..." But his (Dickens) works for several reasons: rhythm contrast and it a very direct almost confrontational voice.
Since it's your first sentence, consider flexing more linguistic muscle. Your choices are to change this and cut out the repetitions or really build on it, creating a 3 or 4 word sentence that is both sweeping, spare on repetitions, linguistically rich, devoid of clichés and still has a kicker of a rhythm.
Since I'm noticing sounds, NAU is a clunker. It's fiction. Have a blast and create your own campus.
If Lindsey sees her ex chatting up coeds, would she be thinking something else other than taking a trip down memory lane? What she REALLY thinks would be far more revealing early on to your reader about her character. You might want to free her up a bit and let her takeover for you.
Your dialogue is adequate, but mundane. When saying 'pass the salt' type dialogue you can often make it more interesting by pairing it with a gesture or image that conflicts what they're saying.
"You look good," said Matt, as he turned back to wave good bye to the coed in pink.
"I'm twenty years older and smarter than her. What do you want?"
Lots of promise here. Keep writing.
should read: 3 or 4 sentence paragraph....
Have a nice weekend, everyone. Get lots of writing done on your stuff.
Beth: "...that phrase "Marveling at the irony of it" says something about her and her situation..."
I missed that, thanks for pointing it out.
I agree -- dave's treatment was a buzz cut, not a trim. I also don't agree with the person who commented about "making those verbs active". What verbs here are passive?
Anyone see passives in there? I don't.
Lastly, while there are some flaws, I think people are going way overboard. This is a good start to build romantic tension. Nothing is happening, but it's 150 words. What do you expect, anagnorisis?
Is anagnorisis still "in?" I can't remember seeing it in anything more recent than Dickens.
Listen, I will never get angry or disturbed or even bothered if an author says they don't like my advice or they like what they wrote more than what I suggested.
That's their privelege as author and I respect that.
I tend to overwrite a story and I feel comfortable cutting severely. I Also don't invest any ego in my writing because I used to publish scientific and technical articles with five or six other people where the edits were done by consensus. That's very different set of skills than writing fiction and I am constantly aware of that as I try to write fiction.
I didn't say anything about passive tense , did I?
Just happen to agree with Dave about the tightening of a few sentences to create a more active tone and stronger, less pallid, sentences.
55 years ago my mother might have thought of herself as a coed. 33 years ago I thought of myself as a college girl. And two weeks ago when I saw my ex-husband hugging a female college student, I thought of her as a hoochie.
Maybe "coed" is not the word you want.
It's promising. I'd bet there's a good-sized audience for it. $ding$
Place a comma after "crisp and bright." It's against the rules, but as my crazy old high-school-English teacher would say, one must know the rules mainly in order to know when to break them. Besides that, the reader needs signs, a guide to know where to pause, like a wind musician taking a breath. However, the rules dictate a comma after "the promise of change," which, in this case, works fine.
A comma allows the reader to pause; "and" coaxes him to rush ahead. Sometimes, "and" doesn't allow the reader to appreciate what has come before.
Regarding italics, whatever sentiment is to be expressed should be done so verbally rather than visually. Expanding the contraction would be adequate, but it might not be enough.
"He laughed" and "took her arm" aren't very descriptive, and they sound as if he's cackling and dragging her down the hall, but I don't know what to do with it.
Here's an edit for you. Hope you don't mind too much:
Fall in northern Arizona is crisp and bright, and filled with the promise of change, and change is why she came home.
Lindsey Hunt walked across the leaf-strewn NAU campus to the faculty office building. Matt was there. He was in the lobby, chatting with a pretty coed. Lindsay stood, watching them, marveling at the irony of it, remembering that first day, all those years ago, when she had been the pretty coed.
Matt grinned at her, excused himself from his conversation, and crossed the lobby.
“You look good, Lindsey,” he said as he approached. Then he engulfed her with a hug.
Lindsey repressed her familiar response to the touch and the smell of her ex-husband. “You too, Matt," she said, "damn it.”
He laughed, took her arm and led her down the hall to his office. “Have a seat. I’ve got everything ready for you.”
She sat, and she watched him round his desk and sit down across from her. The diffuse sunlight from the window behind him erased the years, reminding her how she’d felt, that first day.
Dave, you're trying to write a newspaper article, my man. I understand your position, though. Good luck shaking the rules off.
To the person who wrote of the hoochie: Quite nice.
Drop by my blog sometime, folks.
"Passive" isn't a tense, it's a voice.
Wormy Boy - The first sentence was a lot better without your commas. And I'll visit your blog if your contributions to EE make me want to see who you are, or to read more of your writing. We all understand that Blogger members have blogs.
I should probably spare everyone my rant about the misuse of "passive". So I've cut it down to two sentences, one of which is a mere fragment.
The verb "to be" is not passive. Okay?
Thanks everyone, for your feedback. You’ve given me a lot to think about.
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