Tuesday, February 27, 2007

New Beginning 227


When someone's shooting at you, run in a zigzag.

When you're chubby and prone to hysteria, try not to get shot at in the first place.

Chubbiness and hysteria, along with lung-lancing Chicago cold and sneaker soles worn to tractionlessness, worked against Lacie as she willed herself through the parking lot. Her foot shot out from under her; despite the fact she'd been running head down, eyes-on-the-ground, Lacie had failed to notice an inconveniently-placed patch of ice.

Her ass hit the ground, hard. Knocked breathless, Lacie thought of nothing. Seconds later, as she scrambled to get back on her feet, Lacie thought two things: my coccyx is bruised, and why haven't I been shot?

Afraid to lift her head out of a childish conviction that to look for the bad guy was to see him, and to see him was to die, Lacie concentrated on slowing and steadying her breathing so she could hear.

What she heard was, “Did you get ’em?”

Lacie shrieked. She spun around to look right into the face of a heavy-set blonde. “Jeez, Chrissy,” she said, panting. “You scared the heck out of me.”


“Did you get ’em?”

“Here.” Lacie showed her the box. “We split ’em 50/50, just like we agreed. Right?”

A cacophony of screaming engines and sirens accompanied by strobing blue, red and white lights, interrupted them. Lacie started to hyperventilate. “Ohmigod, ohmigod, ohmigod . . . ” The two women were now looking down the barrels of a dozen regulation issue revolvers held by a dozen super-pissed members of Chicago’s finest.

“Jesus, Lacie, what did you do?”

Lacie glanced back at the store. “I--I took the last dozen sugar-frosted double jelly supremes.”


Opening: CLD.....Continuation: Anonymous

27 comments:

whitemouse said...

This is an awesome beginning. It was quirky and attention-grabbing and I'm curious as hell to know what happens next.

My only quibble is that I can't see how someone running with their head lowered could slip and land on their butt. Their centre of mass would be too low for that; they would either do the splits and then topple sideways, or they'd land on their face.

Anonymous said...

You shift POV. Your transitions from exterior to internal narrative are clunky. You have trouble with name/pronoun sequencing.

McKoala said...

When I read this I remembered the other girl hiding/chase scene that was posted recently - for me this one works so much better. Not perfect, but I feel the tension, whereas in the other one it just wasn't there.

I was OK with the change from second to third person; it's fine by me as an intro.

I also think she'd fall flat on her face or sideways if she's running with her head bowed. Maybe somebody who's done it can resolve that one!

fid def said...

Ooh... Nice seagull critiquing there, Anon 9:49.

I thought this opening was OK - it would having me reading on. I didn't get any clunkiness around the POV shifts or pronuns sequencing.

The punctuation wasn't quite how I'd have done it. I didn't like "inconveniently placed" which sounded arch, slowed down the pace and didn't fit with the rest of the tone.

But... Isn't it when you're being chased by alligators you're supposed to zigzag?

Theo Katz said...

I really like this beginning. You've got an intriguing situation, action and suspense.

I did notice the POV switch in the early paragraphs, but it's such a great way of introducing the scene that I don't want to get picky about it. :)

My only problem was that I found some of the sentences a bit long and intricate for a scene I'm trying to read fast because it's exciting (but I have trouble reading anyway, so maybe that's my problem).

Cute continuation, too.

Anonymous said...

Cut some words. Starting with that 2nd person editorial is a problem. Your first task is to establish the pov, tense, etc. You make a start then switch for no apparent reason so we immediately have to discard the first thing we learned and it doesn't seem like you're in control.

blogless_troll said...

Isn't it when you're being chased by alligators you're supposed to zigzag?

Yes, but unless you're wearing shoes made from raw chicken it's hard to motivate an alligator to actually chase you. If you've managed to accomplish this, you're probably also the kind of person who would zig three feet one way and zag six feet the other, thus maintaining a consistant trajectory and allowing the gator to catch up.

Just don't do this.

fid def said...

...unless you're wearing shoes made from raw chicken it's hard to motivate an alligator to actually chase you.

Sure, hard: but not impossible.

whitemouse said...

I have to respectfully disagree with the anonymouse. I thought the switch in POV served what the story was trying to accomplish very well. Everything about this beginning is clearly intentional; I think the writer is in complete control.

Your first task is to establish the pov, tense, etc.

Nonsense. Your first task is to seduce the reader into the story. Mission accomplished! :-D

pjd said...

I had trouble with some of the body part imagery. Partly because my critique buddies gleefully point out when I write head-scratchers like eyeballs sweeping across an alley.

lung-lacing Chicago cold
foot shot out
head down
eyes-on-the-ground (tee hee)
ass hit the ground
knocked breathless
back on her feet
coccyx (snicker)
lift her head

That's a lot of body parts, and given that you started out with chubby, I think you've established a certain tone. But you might want to tone it down. Apparently it worked for others, but it distracted me, especially the "eyes-on-the-ground" bit. I envisioned this fat girl running like a pig rooting for truffels, her nose grinding on the pavement as her eyes are on the ground. Oh, and zig-zagging.

The other thing that had me giggling was the fact that landing on her ass knocked her breathless. First, I think maybe she should land on her back or her stomach if her breath is knocked out. Second, if she's chubby already, shouldn't landing on her ass be sort of... well, cushioned?

Anyway, apart from that, and the tense/POV change right up front, and the difficult sentence about looking for the bad guy and dying, I liked the tone and the starting.

stick and move said...

I didn't care for this beginning. The switch from second to third person struck me as contrived.

This sentence really felt like it was straining:

Chubbiness and hysteria, along with lung-lancing Chicago cold and sneaker soles worn to tractionlessness, worked against Lacie as she willed herself through the parking lot.

Just trying to say "tractionlessness" is kind of annoying.

The unrealistic description of running forward with her head down, foot slipping and landing on her ass took me right out of it as I tried to imagine how that could actually happen. And I've fallen on my ass plenty of times, but it's never knocked me breathless. Landing flat on my back has, but not on my ass. And then to think of nothing for several seconds? Not real. I don't think the author has ever had their breath knocked out.

The fifth paragraph is good but the four preceding paragraphs make me question the author's competence.

Loved the continuation!

December Quinn said...

I also thought she would fall on her face or side, not butt.

And the first line had me hearing "Serpentine! Serpentine, Shellie!" in my head, from The In-Laws.

But it certainly caught my attention. The POV switch didn't bother me, it felt like I was being drawn in.


I once made an alligator wrestler really mad at me. We saw the demonstration thing in the Everglades (you're actually pretty much forced to see it), and afterwards I asked the guy if the alligators get at all used to him, since he feeds them and does these shows with them five times a day or whatever.

He didn't like that at all. "They're wild animals," he informed me huffily, before stalking away.

Well, yeah, I know...but I can't believe even a wild animal doesn't eventually figure out which side the bread is buttered on. If birds and squirrels come to the park at the same time every day because the guy with the loaf of bread is there, why wouldn't the alligators learn too?

Anonymous said...

Prob'ly just me, but when I saw Lacie, and then blonde Chrissy in the continuation, I though of Cagney and Lacey!

OK, they were in New York, and I don't think I ever saw them eating donuts on screen, but to look at 'em you've gotta believe they knew where the Krispy Kreme was...


wv: pmooz like jelly?

Robin S. said...

I liked the idea and the tone of this - I liked the "rules" spelled out in the first two sentences - thought it was a good way to grab the attention of the reader --especially liked this line-

"Afraid to lift her head out of a childish conviction that to look for the bad guy was to see him, and to see him was to die" -

I felt stopped by a few things - the word tractionlesness, the phrase "Lacie thought of nothing" -they seem a little contrived, or stilted, against the flow of the picture you're giving.

But even so, I'd want to see what happens next.

Great continuation. I could hear the breathless ohmigods.

writtenwyrdd said...

I really liked this beginning, too, but it is a bit clunky.

The opening line bugs me, because running in a zig zag is more Hollywood than reality. Honestly, that might have been taught twenty-five years ago, but not since. Especially when in the open. (And I just double checked with my coworker who is a former D.I. and he confirms my recollections.) What you do (in combat) is get to cover in a process where you might drop and roll or even low crawl, not literally zig zag through the open. That just gives them more time with you being an upright target silhouette. More opportunity to shoot you is bad-- especially "when you're chubby and prone to hysteria" because you're going to be slow.

The scene was definitely funny and I would have read more. The continuation had me wrecking a keyboard.

writtenwyrdd said...

"I also think she'd fall flat on her face or sideways if she's running with her head bowed. Maybe somebody who's done it can resolve that one! "

It depends where her weight was. Also, the instinct to protect yourself kicks in and you throw your arms out, etc. I fell backwards down a flight of stairs once, but before I hit I decided I didn't want to break my neck or go out the window and managed to somehow end up face up, bouncing down the entire staircase.

If you are mincing along on ice and turn your shoulder right you could end up on your rump.

Anonymous said...

When I was in Florida, the word I heard was that you head off at an angle from the gator, not zig zag. They can put on a burst of speed in one direction but they aren't built for quickly changing vectors.

Theo Katz said...

I fell on my ass on blacktop when I was a kid and it totally knocked the breath out of me. For whatever that's worth. :)

Bernita said...

Do you really need all the description on exactly how she was running?
Seems to me "Her ass hit the ground hard." covers it effectively.

Brenda Bradshaw said...

Overall, this works for me and I like it. Reminds me of Stephanie Plum.

I don't like the use of "coccyx". I wouldn't think coccyx. I'd think "tailbone". That's the only thing that pulled me out. That entire paragraph could be reworded to read smoother, I think. "She landed hard on her ass, knocking her breathless. Seconds later, she scrambled to get back on her feet and thought two things: my tailbone is bruised (I'd go with broken. I've landed hard like that, and BROKE it), and why haven't I been shot?

Great continuation.

I like typing coccyx in general though. And it's fun to say. I'm easily entertained today, it appears.

Anonymous said...

My ex tripped on a sidewalk while running and didn't put his hands out to break the fall because he feared cracking a wrist. Broke his jaw instead.

Anonymous said...

Here's another writerly observation. Give someone a cup of coffee or a set of keys. When they are startled, such as when they start to fall, 99% of the time that person's first instinct is to grip the thing in their hand and getting more injured (as wellas burned by the coffee.) Same principle as the monkey jar trap.

In the law enforcement academy I attended, they actually made us practice dropping things before we drew our weapons to overcome this instinct.

Spooks said...

I once fell on my ass. I was crossing the street in shoes with the soles worn smooth (easier to say than "worn to tractionlessness," eh?) and suddenly I was airborne. Owwwwwww! Didn't break my tailbone. Jumped up immediatelyy out of extreme embarassment and limped away. Anyway, I agree there was good tension, definitely an engaging read. I also agree that it was clunky and some editing would take care of that, as in the bit about the soles of her shoes and also I think I would propel her through the parking lot (or some other more active verb) - "willing" her through it makes it sound like she's in one of those dreams where she's trying to move/run but can't. FWIW.

NB

Anonymous said...

(And I just double checked with my coworker who is a former D.I. and he confirms my recollections.) What you do (in combat) is get to cover in a process where you might drop and roll or even low crawl, not literally zig zag through the open.

Yes, but what if the sniper is utilizing bees as bullets, uhn? What do you do then, smartypants?

writtenwyrdd said...

Yes, but what if the sniper is utilizing bees as bullets, uhn? What do you do then, smartypants?

What? Is this a fantasy novel?

Anonymous said...

OK this was posted a million years ago while I was out of town so I didn't get a chance to read everyone's comments then. Thanks to everyone who took a couple minutes to gimme feedback. I appreciate it.

And oh man, everyone's probably right about that falling-on-your-ass thing. As often as I've slipped on icy patches you'd think I'd have put more thought into that.

I envisioned this fat girl running like a pig rooting for truffels, her nose grinding on the pavement as her eyes are on the ground. Oh, and zig-zagging.
...Exactly!

Curses on your head, Anonymous 3:18 AM, for revealing my bees-as-bullets plot twist.

I'm not sure any desire I might have to be a better writer will ever trump my love of typing words like "tractionlessness." That's kind of sad, I guess.

- CLD

Anonymous said...

great continuation! Donuts, is that because she's fat?
Ooh, wait, that's mean.
cocyx? breaks the fictive dream.
Is she a nurse, that such an odd word might pop into her head?
It could be a groovy detail, if handled better.
Donuts, indeed.