Tuesday, March 20, 2007

New Beginning 242

The court adjourned for lunch and everyone left. The clerk remained alone at the front of the courtroom, awash with black apart from the white bib at her neck. She sat back down with a sigh, contemplated the papers in front of her for a long moment, then she picked up the first one and started sorting.

Tom, hovering at the door, wished that the clerk had looked less engrossed in her paperwork. Well, he would have to be even more charming than usual to win her support. He took a moment to pat his hair, still neatly tied back, and glanced down at his attire checking it was impeccable from his polished brown top boots, up his long legs, all the way to his straight collar. Satisfied, he walked to the front of the courtroom, an appealing smile already settling across his features.

"Madam Clerk? I am sorry to intrude," he began in his pleasant voice.

"And yet intrude you do," she replied without missing a beat or looking up. "On my lunch break. When, although I am hungry, I'm still working."

"Yes, about that . . . I may have just what you need," he crooned.

She sighed, set down the papers and looked up. "Please," she said apathetically, "do enlighten me."

"Well, Madam Clerk, it's about . . . my daughter. You see, it's that time of year, and . . . well . . . Can I put you down for a couple boxes of Thin Mints?"

Opening: Aimee....Continuation: Annie


Anonymous said...

This is a plodding start. I don't care about his silly hair until I know who he is and what he's about, if then. Try beginning with the line of dialogue in which he [finally!] says what he wants and go from there. Attach key descriptive details to the dialogue as necessary.

Bernita said...

Interesting scene.
Could use a little tightening.
If "everyone[else] had left" you don't need to tell us she "remained alone."
Choose one.
"Awash" is an awkward word in this context.
What is a "straight collar?"
A bit difficult for him to see his own collar, btw, and suggests you are mixing your POV's.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, I'm in the not-particularly-concerned-with-this-guy's-outfit
camp. Also "awash" confused me; after some staring and thinkin' I decided it meant she was dressed all in black. But it's confusing.

No worries, though. Easily fixed stuff. I'm intrigued as to why this person is courting the clerk's favor.

Anonymous said...

Like the bib. More folks should wear them.

Kanani said...

I'm not seeing this:
"awash with black apart from the white bib at her neck." I'm just not sure what it means.

If Tom is the MC, then start with him. We don't need all the details right now. He wants something.

You can pull the reader in faster if you start with what he sees, show us some cunning or plotting by letting him smooth back his hair with a quick gesture. Forgo the rest of the description now because you want to ad some urgency to his actions.

Then launch into his approach to the lowly clerk.

But as for her, that line is going to have more impact if she looks up from her papers and says, "And yet you do." (don't repeat the word intrude). We don't need explanations about her hunger or that she's working. Just make it clip along by keeping the dialog explanation free.

Keep going. You've put a lot of work into this.

As for the thin mints.... I'm a do-si-do fan.

Evil Editor said...

Not clear why a clerk planning to work through lunch has donned a bib. And, as one of the continuation authors implied, it's not so easy (or should I say hard?) to "sort" one sheet of paper. Perhaps the clerk should pick up a stack.

Anonymous said...

I think, bib is a fashion statement. Bibs are in!

What, like I'm the only one that drools.


So, it's like that, huh... Fine. I drool, and I'm proud!

Anonymous said...

Maybe its an opening segment to TLC's 'What not to wear'?

My ex used to watch it. I remember, she was furious, when I asked her if Clinton was her long lost twin, and which of them had a sex change.

Sorry, nut, I won't wear a bib, and you can't make me.

Dave Fragments said...

Bibs are for lobster lunches.

This is an uneventful start to any story. It has no action and lots of description.

Anonymous said...

It's generally considered unacceptable for characters to note things like their "long legs." I'll believe Tom checked his hair and attire, but not that he thought about how long his gams were. And if he did...ick.

In addition, the construction of that sentence is incorrect; I think adding a comma after the word "attire" would fix it.

I'm not sure when and where these characters are. I'm guessing present day UK, where a court clerk might, for all I know, be "awash" (!?) with black and wear a bib, and a man would be likely to have hair tied back in one of those itchy-looking wigs. But Tom's wearing "brown top boots" (another unfamiliar item). Is he a throwback to 1972? (Ahh, those lovely men in their velvet vests, tall boots and ponytails!) Just back from dressage? Involved in historical reenactments?

Or, if the time is in the past, why does the clerk use the term "lunch break?" I haven't researched it, but it sounds like an anachronism.

Maybe all is explained in the next paragraphs.

Kanani said...

But I think this writer can easily make her opening paragraphs have some action. Action also denotes thought, motions, motivation and attitude.

From what I can see, the writer has very good skills with description, she just needs to do a bit of reorganizing, prioritizing, cutting down and letting the narrative voice rip.

For instance... here's a beginning that's all thought and description. But there's also one other key ingredient: attitude (or as my teenage son would say, "the tude."

"Women on their own run in Alice's family. This dawns on her with the unkindnes of a heart attack and she sits up in bed to get a closer look at her thoughts, which have collected above her in the dark.

In the early morning, April, windless, unreasonably hot even at this sun-forsaken hour. Alice is sixty-one. Her husband, Harland, is sleeping like a brick and snoring."

-Barbara Kingsolver, "Pigs In Heaven"

Wonderwood said...

Author, you got your money's worth with the comments. Many helpful suggestions given with thought and insight.

As for the continuation, nice job.!

AmyB said...

This has a decent hook, but there's a lot of fat to be trimmed.

"The court adjourned for lunch and everyone left"--could just be "The court adjourned for lunch." We infer that everyone left, especially when you mention that the clerk is alone, in the next sentence.

"awash with black"--I agree with others that this is confusing. Could be just "dressed in black with a white bib..." I don't think you need a fancy word.

"sat back down with a sigh"--you definitely don't need "back." Probably don't need "down." Don't need "for a long moment." We easily infer the passage of time.

"wished that the clerk"--don't need "that"

"had looked less engrossed"--"was less engrossed"

2nd sentence, I'd kill "Well" and "even."

etc... just needs a brutal cut to make sure every word is pulling its weight.

Brenda said...

I don't find that the "straight collar" or the "long legs" are a POV issue. As for the straight collar, he knows what he's wearing, as if he picked it out specifically for that occasion knowing what he was going to do. He knows it's straight and is making sure it stayed that way, possibly even starched. So "She straightened her red sweater" would be a POV issue? She knows she put on a red sweater today. Not saying I'd use it myself, but I can see where someone would.

As for the long legs, people know their bodies and what their best assets are, and most likely heard it often from others. For example, I know my eyes are my feature, and I've heard comments about them from as far back as the age of three. If asked to describe MYSELF, that's one of the first things I mention. "Licked her full lips", for example. A character knows if they have full lips or not, and can use that to draw attention to that body part purposefully. Doesn't 'make it a POV issue, at least in my head.

I rambled, but I hope that makes sense to someone.

Dave Fragments said...

You know, I was holding court and thought about this opening. ;)

The two spoken lines:
"Madam Clerk? I am sorry to intrude," he began in his pleasant voice.
"And yet intrude you do," she replied without missing a beat or looking up. "On my lunch break. When, although I am hungry, I'm still working."

Could be the entire opening of the story. The interchange between these two describes their characters better than the rest of the scene setting. Her black and white, sterile exterior and his kinda prissy primping come across in their dialog.

Actually, I thought of Dorothy Parker and her saying "beware of and eschew pompous prolixity" but I thought that was a little snarky when she said it and still is a little snarky now.

batgirl said...

If her bib is white, does that mean her tucker is black? And are they her best?