Tuesday, March 27, 2007

The Next Line 18

"Steven, what are you looking for?"

I ignored the small voice behind me, my meddling little sister, and continued to push the spade into the hard earth of our garden.

"Mom's going to be upset with you when she sees what you've done to the grass."

"Irene, go away," I said in my meanest voice and carried on digging.

"Tell me what you are looking for or else I'm telling Mom!" Her voice had that telltale whine; I knew she meant it.

I took a deep breath and put down the spade.

"Will you help me dig if I tell you?" I didn't want the help, but if she were a part of the digging then she'd be much less likely to rat me out. "It's Mrs. Lassiter, from next door. I didn't bury her deep enough and she's starting to smell. Now go get a shovel."

Dialogue: Sylvia.....The Next Line: Bunnygirl


Evil Editor said...

If I saw someone digging in a garden with a spade, I might say, "What are you doing?" I wouldn't assume he was looking for something. Also, I would expect there to be flowers or vegetables in a garden, not grass.

Bernita said...

"put down the spade"
Usually, people don't put down a spade when interrupted, they drive it upright into the ground.

Anonymous said...

"Garden" did make me wonder -- but perhaps this author is British?

And I tripped over the phrase "my meddling little sister." I think it's unnecessary. If this is the opening dialogue, maybe, but I think we could pick up from context who Irene is pretty quickly. If we already know who Irene is, then it's definitely unnecessary.

All in all, though, I thought this was pretty good. And the continuation was great!

Anonymous said...

Maybe this takes place in Britain. Sounds like it might be from the phrase "carried on digging."

If in Britian, they say garden for what we call a yard.


Evil Editor said...

Those wacky British. What will they do to our language next?

Evil Editor said...

Okay, if I saw someone digging in the yard with a spade I'd still assume he was planning to plant a tree or bury something, not that he was looking for something. I'd say, "What're you doing?"

And my brother, wanting to get rid of me, would say, "Digging a hole; Mom said I could bury you alive."

Anonymous said...

You know, EE, it's funny you should say that - 'cause I thought there for a little while, with some of your language usage, you might be from across the pond.

But then you mentioned you were watching the NCAA tournament. And that notion was instantly dispelled.


Ann (bunnygirl) said...

I wouldn't assume he was looking for something. Also, I would expect there to be flowers or vegetables in a garden, not grass.

I thought those things a little odd, too. But maybe the part that precedes this section offers clarification. Is it a defunct garden, maybe? Did he dig half a dozen holes in the yard before starting in on the garden? Is the kid known for his wild imagination about things that lurk underground?

I just want to know about the dragon. Does it live under the garden? In that case, I'd plant potatoes so I could dig them up already baked! :-)

Dave Fragments said...

This is like a parent questioning a kid.
"Where did you go?"
"What did you do?"

The words are designed not to convey anything about the evening. That's whey this dialog is a challenge to write. It's all misdirection. He's not digging a hole. He's not searching for a body.

If the brother is well known for doing strange, silly and unusual things, the sister might say
"Mom's going to be mad at you [for digging a hole]" in very few words.
Her brother, feeling guilty, jumps and makes guilty moves. He might say. "You better shut up about this, bigmouth. It's weeds, yeah, some weeds. Poison ivy or pot, I think."
Or "Mom likes lillies, I'm planting some bulbs" and then he has no bulbs.

Why would his sister ask him if he is looking for something? There's no motivation for that question. It's out of the blue. Bluebeard the pirate didn't bury something in his back yard but that would be a nicely sarcastic comment, for either one to say.

If he wanted to admit what he is doing, he wouldn't put down the shovel, he would lean on it and ask if she would help him dig.

He might say: "Can't you smell it? Huh? Huh? It's Mrs lassiter......r's cat. It's using the yard as a car box." See the truth as a lie. The statement is both true and false.
Maybe ... the latest in organic fertilizer, bury your dead neighbor.

My suggestion is for him to create a flower bed above her and cover it with manure. That way the stink seems reasonable. {oh yuckies)

Sylvia said...

Hee! I wrote it for a British audience, then "fixed" it for US. I totally missed garden/yard issue. I didn't realise "carried on digging" was a marker, either.

This is the opening to a short story so I thought that Irene needed introducing and used meddling sister to give an idea of our narrator. But I don't know WHAT I was thinking with her question; especially as he's not looking for anything. Her question makes no sense but I'd never noticed.

The ground is hard (yard, grass) so driving it upright in the ground would be difficult.

Boy, can I post all my work here for you lot to spot the US/UK mistakes? It'd sure be useful. ;)

Dave Fragments said...

When I read "Fleshmarket Alley" by Ian Rankin, I discovered all those British-isms. Even the word "alley" was changed for American audiences. It's quite an intersting journey into Brit crime fiction.

as for "carried on gardening" well, (his eye brows open wide in glee) I remember the "Carry on" Gang movies - Carry on Nurse, Carry on Doctor, Carry on Teacher, Carry on Constable, Carry on up the Kyhber, Carry on Screaming, adn the last of the real Carry On's Carry on Dick - all of them delightfully low British comedy.

Ah, from the sublime to the completely silly!