Sunday, August 27, 2006

New Beginning 91

A leather-clad, frying pan-sized hand slithers over Abraham Lincoln’s mouth. His eyes snap open. Abe can’t remember having ever gone from such a deep sleep to complete awareness so quickly, but a creepy, huge hand will have that effect. When his eyes finally focus, and adjust to the moonlit room, Abe sees a mustachioed face, and presumed owner of the leather-clad hand, creeping down toward him.

“Don’t struggle or scream or we’ll kill you,” the man whispers, his mouth inches from Abe’s face. He is pressing his hand firmly, but not harshly, over Abe’s mouth. The man has a creamy coffee smooth voice, and the hot breath seeping into Abe’s nostrils smells strongly of tuna fish. He does not know why, but the odor is calming. “Do you understand?”

Abe nods and lets his eyes drift over the mustachioed man’s shoulder. Standing behind the man, barely distinguishable in the shadows, is a woman with shoulder length hair and a black patch covering her right eye socket. Her left eye is probing Abe with such intrusiveness that he feels like he’s at a proctology exam. Her skin is so pale that her face looks like the floating glow-in-the-dark skull of a pirate. This too, is oddly calming.

The woman produces a strip of fine, glistening cloth. One moment she's pressing it firmly under Abe’s nose, and in the next she's ripping it away with a swift, powerful yank.

Through the pain, Abe sees her press the other side of the cloth onto her own lip, mounting her magnificent prize there, and now he realizes who these people are. The Mustache Pirates. Inexplicably, this realization is somehow calming.

Continuation: Jason


Jenna Black said...

Fabulous continuation. Glad I wasn't drinking coffee. What an image.

Anonymous said...

"Abe nods and lets his eyes drift over the mustachioed man’s shoulder. Standing behind the man, barely distinguishable in the shadows, is a woman with shoulder length hair and a black patch covering her right eye socket. Her left eye is probing Abe with such intrusiveness that he feels like he’s at a proctology exam.

Eyes cannot do either of those activities. Eyes are eyes.
A 'gaze' can travel, probe, stare, etc. I guess an eye can drift, if it's weak.

Anonymous said...

I didn't mention when the query of this came up how much it annoys me when people think they're clever by giving their main character a famous name. It's not funny. It's dumb, especially when it's one of the greatest presidents in US history. Do a replace and take care of this, because I could not read past he first sentence without groaning.

Dave Fragments said...

This is so overdone (IMHO).
It works if the entire novel is a screaming satire on life or a nice humor piece of fun.

Anonymous said...

No, Sherry, we would NEVER wish to use words metonymically.

Novelust said...

Famous names - I'm not into Abe Lincoln right off the bat here because it drags me to a totally different image. If that's the hero's name, let it be a joke later after we've already established a clear picture of our protagonist. I'm getting too much of a stove-pipe hat vibe.

That being said, I'm definitely not against famous and/or awkward names. I only wish folks would go for the slightly less-well-known sometimes.

Bernita said...

~rolls eyes~
I do not understand this sudden and religious desire to rid language of all its figurative elements.

Anonymous said...

Huh. Interesting. I can't decide whether I like this or not, actually. I mean, I think I'm biased from teh query, because it sounded so weird. I'd have to agree about the famous name; if you can establish that he is a different character from the 16th president right of the bat, or what he looks like, or anything, you are going to have some confused and groaning readers. If I were you, I would change the name. Not becuase it's stupid, but because in this case, I am just not sure if it works.

Onto another subject, it is true that eyes cannot do the things you mentioned them doing. Be careful about those kinds of things. And by the way, even if he grows to like his kidnappers, what normal human being would not be terrified of waking up to find strangers standing in front of him telling him not to scream? I think my heart would be pumping a million times a minute if that were to happen to me.

Also, I was curious....what reason does this Abe have for being kidnapped? I find it strange that someone would kidnap a grown man. A young woman, perhaps, but why Abe? That confused me, if all they want is a ransom. Seems to me a grown man would be kidnapped if it were something bigger than money.

s.w. vaughn said...

I just thought it was really Abraham Lincoln...

And I'm with Bernita. Stop constraining our eyes! Let them roam, darn it! One can only "gaze" so many times on a page.


writtenwyrdd said...

I wasn't bothered by eyes that drift, but the writing seemed overdone to me.

The scene is bizarre enough that I would have kept reading, just to see what's going to happen next.

To me, the use of Abe's name implies this will be a running joke. You might want to suggest in here that it isn't President Abe Lincoln.

Anonymous said...

LOL at the continuation.

I know from the query that Abe Lincoln is a modern namesake. Otherwise the proctology exam would seem anachronistic.

I didn't like the continuation of dialogue from the man's perspective at the end of paragraph 2 given the intervening thoughts of Abe.

I would like more sensory detail. Although you did work in tuna fish.

I found the strangely calming the first time mildly amusing. The second time, less so.

All in all, I'd probably keep reading because I like this kind of tongue-in-cheek story, but I don't think the writing is great.

I like it better, though, than the Nobel winners (grateful I guess that we're back to the mundane life of pirates and tuna fish).

Anonymous said...

I forgot to mention, I thought the "When his eyes..." sentence awkward. The "creeping down toward him" could be the face or the hand from the way it's written. "Presumably" it's the hand.

Anonymous said...

One of the problems here is author intrusion. We must be firmly in old Abe's head, and Abe is thinking about things that he really wouldn't think about if he were in this situation. For instance, "Abe can’t remember having ever gone from such a deep sleep to complete awareness so quickly, but a creepy, huge hand will have that effect." And "Her left eye is probing Abe with such intrusiveness that he feels like he’s at a proctology exam." Even though this is third person, Abe is our narrator, and Abe should be super freaked out, not mulling over the last time he woke up so quickly or how a stare is like a proctology exam.

This is either author instrusion, OR it is a third person narrator as character (and I don't think you're going for that), OR maybe you're making the point that old Abe is stoned from the tuna breath. If it's the last option, establish that up front.

HawkOwl said...

Oh, goodness, lighten up!

Obviously it's intended as humour, not psychological drama or an exercise in contrived point-of-view conventions. Who cares what a normal person would or wouldn't be thinking? And who are you to legislate in whose head we must be? I like to hear the author. I'm not stupid, I can tell who's thinking what and what's coming from the author rather than the character's own thoughts.

It's called "third omniscient" and it works.

Stacia said...

I agree with Bernita and SW. I hate the nitpicking about how eyes can't drop or creep or whatever. Figurative language and idioms are beautiful and expressive.

That said, I hate present tense, and so wouldn't read this. It's not personal--I've tried to read present tense before and just can't do it. It annoys me and after a while I start focusing so heavily on the tense I'm not actually reading the story.

Dave Fragments said...

I'm going to defend the opening. If the tone is carried through the novel as a comedy then it works.

I hate to mention a semi-successful novel, but, Chris Elliot's "The Shroud of the Thacker" is an amaing bizzare story about a serial Kill in NY City in 1882 - Jolly Jack the Thwacker and it has Mayor Teddy Roosevelt as a character, american Indian mystics, and is set in pizza parlors, beer gardens, gas powered cell phones, trap doors, conspiracies abounding abundantly, and time travel (near the end). And a robot.

From page one to page 358, it is sheer silliness and its as overdone as this opening. I didn't finish the book, it seemed to drag in the middle like a snake's stomach after it ate the gaming limit, three vermin, two chipmunks and a squirrel.

Now all we need is the author to say it's a serious novel and I will say - the opening is overdone, although I'd personally keep the proctology comment. It's got great YUCK factor.

And gazes can probe, travel and stare - men do it all the time at women's breasts. ;)

Anytime you paint a character as a woman with black hair and an eyepatch, you've got to deliver a so over the top storyline and dialog that ripping off a moustache and putting it on her face seems perfectly normal

Anonymous said...

Agree with Hawkowl regarding narration, but like December Quiin, present tense prose is not easy to read. Mainly I think because we are not used to it, and a lot of writers don't know how to write in present tense well.

Never get a good sense of the hand. "Creepy, huge" should be switched for adjective order. What's the hand doing that it woke Abe? I assumed it covered his mouth, but if it's "creeping down toward him", how did the hand wake him?

PJD said...

OK, back to the eyes. I have no problem with eyes that roam, though I once wrote about a pair of eyes that swept across a street, and my critique group informed me that they envisioned someone with a broom sweeping eyeballs across a street. Not quite the image I was going for.

You might find that you have the same issue with the probing eye. I don't mind Abe's eyes drifting over someone's shoulder, but I did get a little hung up on the image of the pirate-girl's eye probing up Abe's butt. That's where I start thinking, "not my thing."

I agree with the people who said that the famous name didn't work as written. The author must be anticipating the "ha ha" moment when the reader realizes he's been tricked, but I think it will be less "ha ha" than "next book."

Otherwise, I kinda liked it. Not sure I'd keep reading it, but I thought it competently assembled.

Anonymous said...

Oh goody, are we back to pirates? Just wondering where you can buy frying pan size gloves?

Sorry, mind wandering. I'd read more. I liked the beginning apart from the left eye sentence. It breaks the flow. Don't know what a proctology exam is and too lazy to look it up. Also, 'feels like' and 'looks like' too close together.

Should there be something after 'pirate' like 'ghost' or 'zombie' 'cos Captain Jack Sparrow's a pirate and his (swoon-worthy) face doesn't look like a floating glow-in-the-dark skull? Just another idle thought.

Loved the continuation.

writtenwyrdd said...

I agree with Dave. The beginning is the promise of something really bizarre. (And thanks, Dave, I have to find "Shroud of the Thacker.")

I did like it, and I think the present tense suits it. The "oddly comforting" bit and the chick with the black eyepatch are great.

What had me confused, and which I didn't clarify earlier, was that I was distracted by trying to figure out what was the genre. The mention of Lincoln and proctology had me expecting over the top sf, probably a time travel adventure.

If that's not the case, maybe tweak the wording a bit, or change Abe's name.

On the whole, it sounds like it could be a hoot.

From my observation, the trick with humor is to never make the reader disbelieve you. Terry Pratchett and Robert Rankin do it well in the sf/fantasy realm.

Anonymous said...

If the book is written through like the opening I would read it. It is totally unpredictable and I like that. -JTC

Anonymous said...

Thank you everyone for the comments. I assure that my eyes have floated and drifted many times. The opening is actually tame compared to the entire book. It grows more surreal, offensive, and absurd as the story progresses. I am leaving it as Abe Lincoln, because I like Abe Lincoln, he like, did stuff for our country and things...

Anonymous said...

I don't mind that his name is Abraham Lincoln, but I don't think it should be in the first sentence, unless you really want your readers to think it's the dead president. I would just call him Abe until it's established that it's a modern-day story and THEN give his full name.

Brenda said...

Gah - get over the eye thing.

I agree 100% with December.

none said...

When I first read this opening while it was still awaiting its continuation, I thought it probably was from some kind of alternate history novel, but the proctology exam reference then made me think perhaps this was AN Abraham Lincoln rather than THE Abraham Lincoln, although I wasn't sure. I suppose this wouldn't matter in general, as genre etc. would be flagged up, but it did throw me.

I don't have very strong feelings about this opening. I don't find it funny, but humour is so personal that means very little. The woman with the eyepatch is the most interesting aspect for me.

Not sure how you can press a hand "harshly", tho'.