Thursday, August 16, 2007

New Beginning 341

David pulled the car into the driveway just far enough to get the trailer clear of the road.

“Well, here we are,” he said. “It’s nicer inside than it looks, remember. We’ll fix it up a bit, maybe build an addition.”

Kat stared at the house perched partway up the hill. On her first trip out here, when David had still been interviewing for the job, she had expected a quaint log cabin or a classic farm house, maybe even something that looked like a smaller version of the houses on the horse farms they had passed to get here. Nothing like this squat brick . . . cube. It had two stories and a pitched roof, but no porch, barely even a door step. A carport would serve as their garage. She thought back to the house they had left in suburban New Jersey with its dormers and big front porch, and she sighed.

“Tell me again why we’re here,” she said.

"No," David said, "I'm not going to tell you: I'm going to show you. How long have we been married? How many times have I said to you, 'Show, don't tell?'"

Kat sighed again, louder this time, sorry she'd ever seriously thought marriage to an editor could work. She wanted to tell him what she thought about his annoying, pedantic rules; instead she reached into the back seat for the tire iron, realizing it would be much more effective to show him.

Opening: Elissa.....Continuation: Anonymous


Evil Editor said...

Unchosen continuations:

"Oh, don't get me started again... We're here because it's the only state that doesn't have an extradition treaty with New Jersey." He slammed his car door. "If you hadn't picked up that cheese grater..."


David's hand paused on the door handle and he breathed in sharply. "Jesus. Are we going to have this discussion once more? Break out the champagne: our first argument in our new home. Not even in it yet.

"It's close to the office, the price was below market because it needs fixing up, and the sellers are financing which is just as well with our credit rating. The alternative was move in with your mother, and you know how that would go." He cracked the door open. "Fine for you, of course, you always side with her. Christ. Some people would be grateful for a place like this."

David pushed the door open and got out. Kat looked again at the house; a chill ran through her. If she had to live on one of these cookie cutter developments, why this one? She'd had a bad feeling ever since they past the entrance sign:

Widower's Crest Homes.
Drive Carefully.
One Way Out.


"Look. We've been over this a thousand times. New Jersey is just a suburb for Manhattan now. You know that."

"OK," she said, "but this?"

"I know it's not much, but it's better than being priced out of home, isn't it?"

She sighed. "I thought you said we'd be moving up in the world. I was thinking, with the new job and all, we might be able to move closer in. MAybe Queens."

He hung his head. "It's the best I can do," he said. "Im only an editor."


David sighed. "There's more to it than just a new job."

Kat's eyes narrowed. "What do you mean, there's more?"

They walked in silence up to the porch, listening to the steps creak and groan under their weight. "Aliens are after me," David said.

"Did you forget to take your medication today?"

"No," David replied, "but one of the aliens forgot to take hers. And now she's pregnant."


It was David’s turn to sigh as he slumped back into his seat. Now he had to make a decision. Should he explain, yet again, how the transfer of his middle-management position to a call center in Dalian was really a blessing in disguise; how they would have so much fun making a new life for themselves here in the mid-west, learning to live amongst their quirky neighbors with their humorous small-town ways, as they discover the forgotten joys of a simpler life. Or, should he just finish off the whining, whining cow with a shovel and hide her sorry, sour faced corpse under the games room he planned to build, and start a new life as the mysterious loner with a sinister secret.

What kind of story did David want his life to become?

“OK,” he said as he reached for the door handle, decision made.


He turned to her, flung his arm across the seat back, the other gesturing at the stringy saplings dotting the stump filled yard. "Our own acreage in suburbia, honey! Practically the wilderness."

She eyed the trees. "Looks like a combover to me."

"Well, it beats jail."

He could have gone to jail, she could have stayed in Jersey. She made plans right then to call the Don herself and give up her idiot husband to the mob.


"Well," David said.

He paused and licked his upper lip, a gesture Kat had begun to recognize as one of his nervous tics. Whatever he had to tell her could not be good.

"We can get this one without a subprime mortgage loan."


"But darling, I thought you wanted a little masoleum in the country. It's a great fixer-upper - add a couple Greek columns in front and marble facade. Some paint. Tile floors. New carpet. There's plenty of room inside for both your family and mine, maybe even our grandkids."

"I never expected this."

"Think of it as an investment for the future, for or children and their children."


Bonnie said...

LOL, great continuation.

The opening's pretty good, except that I'm not sure whether she's seeing this house for the first time. His comment "remember" and her "on the first trip" make the description sound like flashback, but the rest sounds like they're seeing it for the first time. In fact, the whole thing reads like you're trying to get the first-view-dread into the same paragraph with the realistic moving in part. It comes across as a passage of "As you know, George." They both know but now they're telling the reader.

But I like the narrative so far and would keep reading to find out why they're making this downward move and what's going to happen because of it. I like the way you get us into Kat's head and world view right away. I'm not sure I like Kat -- she seems a bit full of herself -- but she's interesting enough to draw me into her story.

Nit: Is a two-story house really "squat"?

Dave Fragments said...

I live out in the countryside surrounded by fields, horse pasture, forest and parklands. There is one house nearby - a city two-story, red-brick "pimple" built on the side of a steep hill in the middle of a postage stamp lot. I know what the writer is saying about this house. AND it ain't nice (finger wag).
Make it out of cinder block painted Salmon pink. I've seen that too. (I won't make the WV joke, I won't, I won't.) ...With a 6 foot satellite dish pointed skyward.
and a chicken coop ;)

My biggest problem with this opening is that it isn't drawing me into the story.

Try starting out with his line: "Well, here we are," and have the gravel crunching under his tires. Then go directly to her question - "Tell me why..." then adding the description of the house as it actually is, not as she thought it would be.

“Tell me again why we’re here,” she said, staring at a two-story brick cube, with no porch and a carport stuck in front.
then have him say:
I know it's not a sprawling country manor house, but we can fix it up..."
And have her answer with his reason for moving. Switch their roles a bit.

Something like that to work in the reason for their moving out to the country.

Anonymous said...

Just checking: Is Kat supposed to be a selfish whining shrew? That's how I'm seeing her. It seems, because they're pulling a trailer, that this is moving day (though you'd think he'd have driven all the way up to the house), and we're told she's seen this place before, but she's still complaining about the carport?

I wouldn't read further because I don't like Kat and nothing has happened that pulls me in. Maybe the beginning isn't the place to describe an annoying character.

Kanani said...

Not bad, I can see everything.
Think you can tweak that opening sentence to make it more descriptive to draw me in? Is there a funny detail about the car or the trailer? Is he sweating?

When he looks at her, is he nervous? Does he smile, or does he just say these things and jump out of the car not waiting for her response?

Just a few more words and attention to odd little details can do a lot!

Chris Eldin said...

Wow, lots of continuations for this one. All of them funny!

I agree with last anon. I'm not liking Kat. She seems petty. Maybe I could empathize better if she were moving into a decrepit house, or unsafe neighborhood, whatever. Perhaps Kat is supposed to be petty. But I just don't like this as an opening to a story. I would like it better as an opening to the second chapter.

I'd like to get to know David more. He seems likable. Maybe start with him? Just an opinion.

I liked the writing though. Good luck with it!


Ello - Ellen Oh said...

I think this is a great example of why 150 words is too short to give good comments on. Now this isn't always the case because we've had alot of openings that grabbed you from the first word. But this is clearly a slower build up. I didn't have a problem with Kat, I didn't think she was petty. I'm pretty sure I would have thought and felt the same as she did if I drove up to a brick after giving up a nice house, even if it was in Jersey. I don't think that makes her petty, just human.

I don't have any issues with this opening. I think it is fine. But it definitely doesn't grab you right away. I'll assume that comes after word 151.

Anonymous said...

Hi Elissa!

The continuation says it all: there's no reason to have a conversation a second time just to let the audience hear it. In fact, there's little going on here that couldn't be inferred or told when the action starts.

There's nothing wrong with the prose, I'm just not sure this is the place to start. Now I'm curious whether there's a more interesting opening scene in the next few pages. Would you mind posting the next few hundred words?

Anonymous said...

They've been driving for two days, so yeah, she's a little tetchy. They're moving from the Princeton, NJ, area to rural east-central KY, so there's some anxiety, as well.

The continuations were great! I particularly like Anon.'s aliens. Have you been accessing my computer?

Robin S. said...

The continuations were really, really good. Showing not telling. Good one.

Good Lord, going from Princeton, NJ to rural Kentucky is a huge, huge culture shock, even if you weren't moving there, even if you were only stopping for the night at a Quality Inn just off of I-64.

What's-his-name is lucky she's stuck with him THIS long. Kat's not a bitch; she's simply entering a period of well-deserved and serious depression. If their NJ house hasn't been sold yet, and she has anything like a career she left behind, she can still save herself, and run like hell. Maybe she can grab the late greyhound bus out of whatever sort-of-town they're near.

OK- anyway - now that I know what Kat is facing, I feel for her.

Is this a novel opening, or a short story? I'm not sure it matters anymore, in a way, as everyone seems to want a big gut-punch fast, with something happening, either in the uniqueness or strength of voice, attitude, or some action that brings the reader right into the story.

I agree with kanani - maybe some tweaked additions would be a good idea, not to change the opening so much as to enhance it, and keep the reader, well, reading on.

And yes, you can have a squat brick cube that's two-story, in this part of the country.

Anonymous said...

Robin--Thanks. This is the beginning of a novel. Someone requested the next couple hundred words. If that's the consensus, I'll post them.

Robin S. said...

Hi Elissa - I'd like to see them.

If you don't mind posting them, that would be great.

pacatrue said...

I just wanted to go on record that large parts of Kentucky are quite beautiful. And I even lived 5 miles from Princeton, NJ for five years. It's quite lovely, too.

Xenith said...

In the second paragraph, I thought he was talking about the trailer. (How do you put an addition on a trailer?)

This is what comes from reading before first cup of tea of the morning.

The next bit doesn't work at all for me, but it might be cultural :) From the set up, I'm expecting some awful building but instead she's decribing my idea of a perfect house. Even if I try not to think of lovely Georgian homesteads, I can't get past a two storey house perched on a hill as being anything other than a expensive status symbol.

Maybe some clues as to why she finds it distateful? No utilities? Mass produced 1950s leftover? Twenty year old wannabe built by someone with no taste and less sense?

Anonymous said...

Xenith--the house is simply small and very plain. No adornments, no porch. Just brick, a door, and a couple windows.

OK--the next 250 or so:

“Tell me again why we’re here,” she said. She could hear every mile of their two-day drive in her voice. The last twenty minutes had been the hardest, as she’d watched the number of houses dwindle to almost zero by the time they arrived. She couldn’t even see the last house they’d passed—it was a quarter mile up the road, hidden by curves, trees, and a lower appendage of the hill—mountain?—that rose beneath them. She fought down a growing shiver at the isolation.
“I thought you wanted to come.” David looked over at her.
“I thought so, too. I don’t remember it being so . . . so rural.”
“We’re only twenty minutes from town and an hour from Lexington.”
“Like Lexington’s worth anything.”
“C’mon, Kat.” David’s knuckles whitened as he tightened his grip on the steering wheel. “We made this decision together. You’re the one who said this church was the one that seemed to need me the most.”
“Me and my big mouth.”
David laughed and put the car in gear. They pulled up under the carport and sat for another moment. The open end of the carport gave Kat a view of the trees that encroached on the house. Thorn bushes of some sort—if she was lucky, they were berry bushes; she would check later—marked the boundary between clearing and forest, almost as if they were set there on purpose to keep out invaders. Or keep in escapees. Or perhaps they were the front ranks of a slow invasion.

Robin S. said...

pacatrue, honey, you are quite right.

Being from Kentucky myself,(you may remember, we all had a Southern accent talk some time ago, and I rued the fact that I had a twanging rather than a drawling accent...) I agree with you. There ARE parts of Kentucky that are beautiful. These parts are what we call State and National Parks. And then there are suburban Jefferson, Oldham, and Fayette Counties. Yes, this is a bit of an overstatment. A bit.

Oh, and Elissa has posted the next part of her novel. So. Even better. The house is the preacher's house. Owned by the local church. I've been trying to find an example by Googling - sorry, I can't find what I have in mind.

Anyway, Elissa, I like the way you say this, about the bushes that "marked the boundary between clearing and forest, almost as if they were set there on purpose to keep out invaders. Or keep in escapees. Or perhaps they were the front ranks of a slow invasion."

It's that attitude that may help keep Kat from pulling a "Shining fit" on her sweet husband through the first winter they are, well, where they are.

I'm still thinking this might start slowly for most taste buds - but that's, perhaps, for others to say.

I know exactly where you are with your scene, but I've seen it before. Maybe others can tell you what they'd need, in order to see it as well.

Kanani said...

OK... so they're in Kentucky.
Tell us, is the air heavy with humidity? What are the sounds outside? Crickets? Trains? Kids nearby? Go-karts?

Just one or two details to help you ground your opening will liven things up.

Anonymous said...

My comment didn't make it past the lame joke filter, so I'm going to try again, sans attempted humor.

With the additional 250 words, this still doesn't draw me in. It's not that it starts too slowly, I don't need a punch in the stomach opening every time. But what is here, I just don't find very engaging. It's a lot of telling backstory, repeating to each other things they already know for our benefit. This opening puts me in the past instead of pulling me into the future.

I'd like the voice to have a tad more edge. I actually wonder if it would snap a bit better told first person from Kat's point of view? A quirky fictional memoir of a preacher's wife lost in the country?

I'd like a little more hint of what's coming, beyond finding out whether the bush bears berries or not.

For me, the first hint at personality is really in those last couple of lines describing the property boundary, though even then I think more could be made of this description if she was doing a tour of her new garden rather than just glimpsing it through the carport -- experiencing the oppresiveness rather than just observing it through the carport through the car window.

Showing rather than telling would add some sparkle, I think.

McKoala said...

The first 150 words or so didn't have much impact on me, but this is much more interesting. Definitely sinister. Novel? Short story? Kanani has a good point re. more senses. This is all visual.

AmyB said...

I like the writing quite a bit. It's clear and readable, with nice details. I don't think it's "telling" instead of "showing," and anyway I think a little telling at the start of a novel helps ease me into it.

I'm less wild about the content. I'm feeling just like Kat in this scene; these surroundings seem pretty bleak. Do I want to spend time in them? Of course, if I'd read the back of the novel and knew we had a fun, exciting central conflict coming up, it wouldn't be an issue.

Love the continuation!

Anonymous said...

Hmm, interesting: Sinister. I certainly hadn't been thinking "Sinister." Perhaps the next couple of hundred words..?

writtenwyrdd said...

I didn't take this as a complaint about rural Kentucky, but about the woman's disappointment and her feelings at the moment.

Reading all the comments, there are a variety of opinions displayed, but I have to say I think Dave's comments on what to tweak were dead on. I'd have read on for a bit because this seemed to me about their relationship, which is currently under stress from (presumably) the move and the reasons for it.

Just be aware of what is relevant to the opening. Hooking the reader's interest, giving the background that is absolutely needful and pointing their expectations in the right direction.