Wednesday, February 21, 2007

New Beginning 223

When I was ten, my "boyfriend" Johann showed me how to crack my knuckles. It hurt the first time, but I got used to it. We were standing in my garage. Johann was eleven or twelve. I learned a lot from him.

He tried other things in my garage, which I have to say, looking back, was really stupid since the garage door was always open and my mother could see us from the kitchen window. My mother didn’t think I could see her moving around behind the red and white checked cafĂ© curtains she had sewn for the kitchen windows, but even then I knew she was a born sneak.

One time, Johann tried to convince me that he could hypnotize me so I would do what he told me to do; he said I wouldn’t be able to stop myself.

That was his thing back then: magic and hypnotism. I went along with it for a while but, looking back, he wasn’t very good. We lost touch soon after that. His dad got a new job in Edinburgh -- we wrote to each other once or twice, but it soon trailed off. Well, we were kids; what can you do . . . do . . . cock a doodle dooooo . . .

Funny thing is, I ran into Johann again just this spring. He works at a library now, but he does a stage show on the weekends. Sorry, does that bother you? Ba . . . Baaaaaaaaad habit, but it makes my fingers feel so good. He still does hypnotism, can you believe that?

Of course, I ragged him about it. I know that stuff is all faked. Oops, sorry, forgot to turn off my cell phone. No, I won’t answer it; it’ll be my mum, checking up on me. Nosy bint. I-- Oh my goodness, I’m so sorry, I didn’t realize I was doing that. I should have gone before I came in. I'm so embarrassed, doctor . . . Doctor, doctor, gimme the news, I got a . . . bad case of lovin' you . . .

Opening: Robin.....Continuation: ril


Anonymous said...

I like the voice in this; I think it captures the essence of the girl very well.

The continuation nails the only quibble I have with the piece, which is that it doesn't seem to be going anywhere yet. Something resembling a story would have to show up in the next paragraph for me to be willing to keep reading.

Dave Fragments said...

I like these few paragraphs.

If it were me, I'd rewrite the first line as: "The kid who was the love of my life taught me to crack my knuckles in my garage wehn I was ten."
And then I'd say "Patrick was eleven or twelve."
I'd throw out everything else in the first paragraph (52 words). That cuts it down to 27 words.

Before anyone argues about style, please consider that the first 52 words in a novel do not set the style. There are 80K more words to set the style. Besides, this doesn't change the voice or POV of the story. Nor does it change the facts. It's just a few sentences of backstory to get us interested in the principle character.

And to that - what is more important to the character? Patrick, the love of her life, OR her nosy Mother peaking from behind the curtains.

Remember that after someone is thirty years old, they can't blame their screwups on their parents. At least in my opinion. I hope your character is younger.
Well, now that I think of it, Norman Bates had a reason to criticize his mother after the age of thirty. BUt then, we aren't writing about homicidal maniacs. (wink, wink)

I tend to think this is a romance with the lost love of her life. So we need not worry about mummy (get it!). And all of this, the hypnosis, the knuckle cracking, the barn (where I think they played "doctor, doctor, oh doctor, don't stop" is backstory. It's nice backstory. It's fun and breezy, kinda romantic too.
But it doesn't make me want to read much more.

Throw some steak on the table and gimme some raw beef. (oooh!)

Rashenbo said...

I agree with that opening rewrite, Dave. That opening line seemed pretty awkward to me. I thought it was a little circular and had too much rambling for me.

Brenda said...

Is it just me, so does this remind anyone else of Stephanie Plum and Joe Morelli (from the Evanovich series) playing choo-choo out in his garage when they were kids?

Anonymous said...

I'm late to the 'rewrite the first line' party, huh?

I'd also re-think what details need to stay. Is it important to know that the curtains in the window were cafe curtains, and they were red and white checked, and that the mother had sewn them? That's three descriptions for one item. I think I know what you're getting at with that line, but you tell us twice that it's the kitchen window and that it's the mother sneaking a peek. How about this (since we're rewriting your prose here):

He tried other things in my garage, which was stupid since the garage door was always open and my mother could see us from the kitchen window. She didn't think I could see her moving around behind the homemade curtains, but even then I knew she was a born sneak. (19 words cut. Miss any of them?)

Robin S. said...


Just got in and found this had piece has been "New Beginninged" --

First of all, I'm honored to see your continuation ril; it's perfect. My favorite part: "Sorry, does that bother you? Ba . . . Baaaaaaaaad habit, but it makes my fingers feel so good" ---

So - on to the beginning -
the first paragraph is, I think, a true representation of the voice of the ten year old girl - coming back through the voice of the adult the girl has become, so to speak. She speaks in an offhand, wiseass, blunt way. And thanks, whitemouse - I'm glad you liked the voice.

I absolutely agree that the second sentence in the second paragraph needs to be either incorporated into the first sentence, or changed a lot. I've been thinking about this sentence for a while now; rereading it made me wince.
You guys are right - it's got to go, at least the way it looks now.

Dave,I promise there's a story coming quickly down the pike, with lots of stuff about to happen, and, as much of a thing as the ten year old girl has for Patrick - he's not gonna be there for the duration, so he's not the story, but what happens between them is a foreshadowing - or supposed to be, anyway.
In the next few pages, in this neighborhood, a smarmy little guy is gonna be fooled into drinking a nice warm cup of pee, another boy will burn his face, a mother will gas herself, and there will be a nice psycho-sexual episode with an imagined guardian angel.

Hi Brenda - it's interesting that you mentioned Janet Evanovich, because one of my close friends is always telling me I should read her stuff. She says my attitude (in real life) reminds her of the main character in these books. I didn't want to read them because I didn't want her voice to climb into my own writing. I'll have to tell my friend what you said - she'll get a kick out of it!

McKoala said...

Not going to rewrite anything, but suggest maybe a few different para breaks/tense changes. Loved the first two sentences, then there was a shift in the third that made me think that we were going to be in the garage with something specific coming up...then whoops back to telling about the past again. I found that a bit frustrating to read.

'He tried other things...' plus the open garage door made me think sexual experimentation, or maybe I'm weird. Maybe because you've said 'love of my life' which makes me think that the narrator would comply with almost anything. but again, the hints don't seem to lead anywhere.

I hope that the hypnotism bit is actually leading to something or my frustration might get the better of me.

shaded-lily said...

I'm not among those who assume the narrator is a girl, but I'm probably not among those who are right, either. ;)

Dave Fragments said...

I actually like the detail of the red and white checked cafe curtains sewn by Mom. It speaks of a frugal, dedicated housewife of the type that feminists hate. It says lots about how the narrator was raised or the issues he/she might have and it says it in an indirect way.

ril said...

My favorite part: "Sorry, does that bother you? Ba . . . Baaaaaaaaad habit, but it makes my fingers feel so good"

Evil Editor helped out quite a bit with this continuation... I definitely can't take all the credit.

Evil Editor said...

Interestingly, I took out the part where pee gets drunk, and it turns out to be part of the actual book.

ril said...

the part where pee gets drunk . . . turns out to be part of the actual book.

Well, obviously.

none said...

So, you don't know shit about feminists, then, Dave?

I liked the opening, but I think I'll pass on the warm pee!

Robin S. said...

Just got out of back-to-back meetings. How dare work get in the way of what is really important, huh?

Dave, Thanks for saying that about the curtains. You're right - they are meant to take the reader to the
place this girl lives - you will find out that this family is barely hanging on to the bottom rung of the middle class - so homemade curtains are the only curtains they're able to afford --
- and the mom being a born sneak behind them...
well - this mom may have done some things that are hard to forgive. But here, at the beginning, I wanted it to seem like it could simply be true that the girl was irritated that her mother was watching her/watching out for her.

As pee is the topic of the day - here is a taste of the pee part, so to speak:
"On my block, in my neighborhood, all of the bathrooms were in the same place in the back of our houses and they had outside windows in the showers. Neighborhood legend had it that Patrick, at the end of that summer, when we were all really very bored, knocked on Easy Mark’s bathroom window one afternoon, with Mark standing right there in the shower. Mark opened the shower window with the water still running, with him standing there, stark flat naked. Patrick then offered Mark a drink of his lemonade. Turned out to be a smoky homemade brand called Patrick’s-Pee-in-a-Cup. The kid realized this only after taking a drink. And swallowing; and gagging. Apparently he had no sense of smell, but his sense of taste was very intact. And I can report that pussy-boy Mark told his mommy, that his mommy had no sense of humor, and that his dad, as usual, stayed very quiet."

McKoala said...

Practical point - having no sense of smell profoundly affects the sense of taste - the tongue only has basic taste receptors (sweet, sour, salty, bitter) - the nose does the rest. So 'very intact' doesn't work, although he might be able to taste the difference. To test that I'd have to test my friend with no sense of smell and I'm not sure she'd welcome that...

Robin S. said...

Oh! I was just teasing about no sense of smell. The kid doesn't actually lack a sense of smell - he just gulped what was in the cup without thinking!

writtenwyrdd said...

I liked this as well. I feel like it's going somewhere good, so I am not terribly bothered by the wait. Sometimes I with EE would allow 250 words, because that's pretty much the first page of a book, isn't it? If you hadn't gone anywhere by then, you'd really have a problem.

Anyhow, I have to once again agree with pretty much everything Dave said.

My impression was that the love of her life would soon go away and we'd discover that mom the nosy bint had something to do with it, and with the rest of the story.

batgirl said...

Very minor point--250 is the wordcount for a page in standard manuscript format (doublespaced, Courier 12 and all that). 150 words is roughly what you'd get on the first page, allowing space for the author's address at the top and the title about mid-page.
It's kinda frustrating, yes, but it's pretty close to the first page wordcount.

Evil Editor said...

I don't actually care about pages so much as the fact that 250 words is more likely to show where the book is going, greatly reducing the options for the continuation author.

Anonymous said...

Well, I certainly cannot argue with the logic of 150 words vs. 250 when you put it that way, EE!