Monday, October 30, 2006

New Beginning 151

My situation is unstable, like a cone balanced on its point. I am so comfortable that I can’t feel my skin. I am at perfect thermal equilibrium with my surroundings while simultaneously enjoying a pain free morning. No joint discomfort or other age related feelings. It is weird. I am no longer sure where I leave off and the rest of the world begins. It’s a wonderful feeling though, to feel this good, to not know how big you are. I could be as big as an oak, as small as a bean. My thoughts seem expansive, oversize. Nothing seems impossible because I feel a part of it all, of everything. I have no body so I must be everywhere and everywhere must be here. My spirit leaps and I feel intense joy, like a caged setter freed to the autumn woods and the thrill of the hunt. I am sure this will not last too long and I am right.

Professor Chiltern stared at the printout, incredulous. “Are you sure about these results?”

The research assistant pulled out a thick file full of charts and transcripts. “We’ve tested over a thousand subjects. All the same. Once we figured out a way to translate the electrical impulses, the rest was simple. Professor, there’s no doubt about it.”

The Professor leaned back in his chair and pulled off his wire-framed glasses. He didn’t know whether to be elated at the breakthrough, or disappointed that one more mystery of nature had been solved. “So it’s true,” he said. “The male organ does have its own consciousness.”

Opening: Inkmandoo?.....Continuation: ril


Anonymous said...

Priceless, ril, priceless. As for the original - sorry, but I just didn't find it interesting. Perhaps your real beginning is further on in your first chapter.

Anonymous said...

Hey, I like this beginning.

Dave Fragments said...

Somewhere in those 150 words you have to establish a character, say a name or reveal something else besides whatever that strange miasma is that the speaker is involved in. As this stands right now, it's too much description of wierdness. It requires a person be attached to it to bring it into reality.

Anonymous said...

This story just doesn't get started in the first 150. That doesn't mean I wouldn't read more, but it better get going soon. -JTC

That's a good continuation, but I think ril got the gender wrong.

Cheryl said...

I can't decide whether the narrator is on drugs, or dead. Maybe it's a person who's doing physical therapy in water. Just don't know.

ril, the continuation was awesome. Comes right back around to the 'big as an oak or small as a bean' line. hehehehe

PJD said...

Is this perhaps some category that is popular that I don't read?

Anyway, although this introspective monologue went on WAY too long for a beginning (in my opinion), I did like some of the phrasing and images. Others I did not like.

Things I like: cone balanced on its point. Not knowing how big you are.

Things that hung me up: No joint discomfort or other age related feelings (oh? What age is this person? I assume it's a person. actually, I like this as a detail, and it's the one thing I have to hang on to about the character... but it's entirely out of sync with the rest of the voice... or vice versa?) Perfect thermal equilibrium (at first I thought I liked this, but then you follow it up with a pain-free morning... just incongruous). My situation is unstable (what situation? what is unstable if you are that comfortable in the next sentence? are you freezing to death? are you in a hospital bed, drugged out? are you late on your taxes and mortgage because you spend all your money on heroin? is that the situation that is unstable?)

The problem, I think, is that you are waaaay too long on introspective imagery while being waaay to short on anything else. By the time I get to the dog frolicking in the woods and your spirit leaping, I've forgotten all about that unstable situation you started off with. And yet, you've taken me this far and told me virtually nothing except that you have a love of metaphor and that you normally experience joint pain in the morning.

All in all, too many metaphors and not enough of... anything else.

GutterBall said...

I can't tell if this is someone who's been miraculously healed after some long and debilitating illness or what. Admittedly, the "explanation" could well be in the very next paragraph, but for the purposes of snagging interest in this particular venue, this doesn't quite do it for me.

Why should I care if this guy's comfy? I'm stuck at work!

...Oops. Which means I should be working, not reading Mr. Evil's blog!

Unknown said...

I think this is a fine example of a writer being in love with his/her own words. Trust me, I've fallen prey to this many times.

Step away and attempt to read this from an objective POV... you'll realize there's little substance and nothing to make the reader want to continue. I bet you can cut that down to one sentence, obtain the same "weird" feel and give us a character to boot!

FWIW, the writing is solid though.

Stacia said...

I think it's a little wordy to express, "Hey, I'm not in pain, and that feels good."

Gordon Lightfoot said the same thing, a lot quicker, too.

HawkOwl said...

The continuation made the beginning worthwhile. Sort of. Except the part about the caged setter, which remind me of the "my similes suck like the river tide" article. This definitely needs something around it to be worth reading. If it's part of a drug addiction memoir, ok. As the beginning of a drug addiction memoir... Dubious. As the beginning of a novel I know nothing about, I wouldn't read it. It's been done way too much to be a good hook.

Rei said...

I have to agree with Cathy, and disagree with almost everyone else. This has a sort of Poe feeling to it. I like it.

Note that this is lit fic, not commercial. If the goal was commercial, the author is way off. If so, great job.

Anonymous said...

Pass me some of whatever he's having in that opening. For some reason I'm thinking of Pink Floyd's "Comfortably Numb." Rock on!

Anonymous said...

Absolutely ROTFLMAO at the continuation. Perfect.

Writer-I didn't much like this beginning. It's not bad, it's just not what pulls me in and makes me want to keep reading. I generally dislike self-absorbed main characters, and loathe them when they're filled with angst. Yours escapes the latter, but looks like he or she might be headed there.

Good luck.

Oh, and btw, I like sensory detail.

Anonymous said...

I'm with the crowd who liked this beginning, and I would definitely read more. But I do think it could stand to be trimmed a bit.

I don't think you need to introduce action or character immediately -- some ambiguity is nice -- but a few of your sentences/phrases do seem a bit redundant.

Dan Lewis said...

I don't know where this paragraph is leading me, what to expect next. It would have been nice to have more than one paragraph in the opening to see some rhythm.

The present tense is also throwing me off.

I guess this is supposed to be a tour de force whose protagonist is in love with the sound of his own narration. Or thinks too much. So I suppose the main character is a member of an insane asylum, a bodiless Buddhist elf more powerful than I can imagine, or a person trapped in either a sensory deprivation tank or the Internet.

"I am sure this will not last too long and I am right." I suppose this is supposed to set up the action to follow, but I didn't think this was ominous enough, coming at the tail end of this long paragraph.

The references to leaving behind joint pain and apparent loss of the body reminded me of Roujin Z.

It would be a coin flip to read further.

McKoala said...

The start is just not my thing - it goes on too long and I'd struggle to get any further. The continuation, on the other hand, was hilarious!

braun said...

Somewhat intriguing, but for once I have to agree with Dave.

Anonymous said...

When this was posted over at “Openings” it said it was the start of a short story, so I’m reading it as such.

Saying “this is literary and you plebs just don’t understand it” is a cop-out. The bar is, if anything, higher on “literary”, and higher still on short stories: Every word has to count.

I don’t know where this piece is heading, obviously. Right now it reads as a kind of prose poem - lots of imagery unanchored to anything tangible. The overall feel of it is not at all bad, but I agree with others who say it needs an edit. It’s not tight enough, feeling more like stream of consciousness, a first draft writing exercise.

The first sentence is wasted. It describes something precariously balanced, but the next 150 words describe a scenario of comfort, serenity and joy.

The last sentence is wasted. “I am sure this will not last too long” is weak compared to something like, maybe, “my senses tell me this will be short-lived.” “...and I am right” is so tell, not show; and, I would guess, lessens the impact of what follows. Don't tell us you're right, let the story show us.

The stuff in the middle has potential but feels too loose to me. Treat it like you were writing a poem and labor over every word. Take out some of the repetition and sharpen some of those adjectives ("Wonderful"? Wondrous? Astounding?)

Good luck.

(Reading the opening again in the context of the continuation is kind of fun, too.)

Inkmandoo said...

Thanks to all for the critiques. This is not a defense of the piece. I know it needs work. However it is an argument that 150 words is a constraint of this fun blog and simply doesn't fit the real world of writing. Dave, you do great work here, but I'd argue that establishing a character does not have to be in the first 150. See, for example, the beginning of Warren's "All the King's Men" which is a page long description of a road.

As for show don't tell, I'm glad Francine Prose dispelled this overused advice in her excellent new book "Reading Like a Writer." See the last paragraph on page 24.

Creativity means taking the straitjacket off your muse.

This beginning is just the first half of the opening paragraph. The next sentence reveals where he is. I'll post it on my blog for anyone interested.

none said...

Judging by what I see in slush, far from being overused, "show don't tell" is widely ignored. You might say, rightly so. I would say, reject reject reject.

ScienceSleuth said...

I liked the first sentence. I'd keep that and trash eveything else. This opening reads like the narrator has just converted to Buddhism (or discovered weed). The "spirit leaping" sentence was cringeworthy.

That said, there seems to be a good writer lurking under all that vagueness. Dump the navel-gazing and use specific, concrete details.

GutterBall said...

This beginning is just the first half of the opening paragraph.

Oi. You're gonna have your work cut out for you keeping even a dedicated reader's attention going for such a huge block of text. You might consider splitting that into a couple of paragraphs, just to keep the reader's eye moving.

It takes nothing from the prose and helps the reader along a bit. It might even cut some of the criticism about the vague and rambling nature of the opening. It will give it the appearance of structure, even if you don't change a word.

Not that I'm suggesting you don't revise, because this really does come across as rambling. Sorry, but it does. It's not about strangling your muse; it's about helping the reader understand and enjoy your story.

And no, I'm not saying to play to the lowest common denominator or that the average reader is an idiot to be coddled. Just saying that a writer's job is to be readable. Help us readers out a little.

Anonymous said...

Creativity means taking the straitjacket off your muse.

Yes, but getting published means creating something that others want to read also.

By all means, take the straitjacket off your muse and let the words flow.

Then edit, edit, edit. Miss Snark said something to this effect recently:

Your first draft can look like kudzu. Your final draft should be bonzai.

Dave Fragments said...

Inkmandoo, I accept your point. BTW - I had in mind the opening of "Sophie's Choice" when I wrote about establishing a character:

"In those days cheap Manhattan apartments were almost impossible to find in Manhattan, so I had to move to Brooklyn. This was in 1947, and one of the pleasant features of that summer I vividly remember was the weather, which was sunny and mild, flower fragrant, almost as if the days had been arrested in a seemingly perpetual springtime. I was grateful for that if nothing else, since my youth, I felt, was at its lowest ebb.

A twenty-two, struggling to become some kind of writer, I found that the creative heat which at eighteen had nearly consumed me with its gorgeous, relentless flame had flickered out to a dim pilot light registering little more than a token glow in my breast, or wherever my hungriest aspirations once resided. It was not that I no longer wanted to write, I still yearned passionately to produce the novel which had been for so long captive in my brain. It was only that, having written down the first few paragraphs, I could not produce others, or – to approximate Gertrude Stein’s remark about the Lost Generation – I had the syrup but it wouldn’t pour.
To make matters worse, I was out of a job and had very little money and was self-exiled to Flatbush – like others of my countrymen, another lean and lonesome young southerner wandering amid the Kingdom of the Jews.
Call me Stingo, which was the nickname I was known by in those days, if I was called anything at all."

That's a long opening with lots of lucious words and descriptions that say quite a bit about the character.

writtenwyrdd said...

Great continuation, ril. Most unexpected.

Author, I absolutely agree with dave's comments, but what struck me most was that the first sentence needs to go away. It seems to contradict what follows.

I kept thinking as I read this that the speaker was in a sensory depravation tank.

Anonymous said...

...sensory depravation tank.

Oh yeah, I wanna get me one of those.

Does EE spend his spare time (ha ha) in a sensory depravation tank?