Monday, August 27, 2007

New Beginning 349

Winston Campbell shoved his feet into once-white trainers and threw a jacket over his tee shirt. He checked his tight braids in the mirror and wiped away a smudge of ink from the dark skin of his cheek. Patting his pockets, he went into the living room and picked up his tobacco from the coffee table, crossing himself in front of the Madonna on the wall and kissing the pad of his thumb prior to pressing it against the fetish of Maitresse Erzulie.

"I'm off out, Lattie." He looked in at the kitchen where his sister was baking and flashed her a smile.

"Mind you're back for five," she warned. "Joseph and his parents are coming over, remember?"

"I know." Winston held up a hand. "They want to go over plans for the wedding. Why do I have to be here again?"

She gave him a mock punch. "Because you're giving me away."

"I wouldn't have it any other way," Winston replied and gave a slight bow in imitation of Hiroshi Koitami, his Jodo Shinshu sensei so many years ago when they were still in Kansas. "I've been trying to get rid of you for years."

Lattie smiled at the old joke and watched the lines of the Ringatu tattoos on Winston's face move as he returned the smile. "If so, perhaps you shouldn't have followed me here to Angkor Wat."

"It was Allah's will."

Opening: Rachel Green.....Continuation: Pacatrue


Evil Editor said...

Unchosen Continuations:

"Giving you away? When you're worth your weight in sheep?"


Winston's face went slack. "A brother should not have to give away his sister."

Lattie nearly teared up. "I'm proud to be, now that Father. . . ." She glanced at the wall with the Madonna. "The fetish is new. You're not planning on doing something rash, are you?"

Winston left without answering.

--Bill Highsmith

She grabbed a towel to wipe the flour off her hands, and switched to her raised eyebrows serious face. "Now, don't be coming back all drunk; not tonight."

He cocked his head to one side. "Lattie, why would I be doing that?"

"Winston, you know you always go to the Angel on the corner of High Street for a couple of pints, Sunday afternoon."

He rolled his eyes. "Yeah, yeah, I know. I'll take it easy. Now where are my keys?"

* * *

Winston's problems with memory loss began soon after the car accident in 1987. Neurological symptoms manifested themselves almost immediately. You can see in this transcript how he and his family use a series of physical and verbal exercises, to reinforce routine and try to maintain something approaching a normal life...


"Oh, yeah, I forgot." He sidled out the door and into the street.

He walked a few blocks until coming to a dark bookstore. 'MAITRESSE'S' was painted on the window in uneven, runny white letters. Glancing around until he was certain no one saw him, he opened the door and went inside.

"So, Winston," came the voice from upstairs. "You have come. Did you bring what I asked?"

"Yes," he said, nervous. "Some of Joseph's hair, my letter and the gold."

"Good." The old woman slowly descended the stairs. "Now, Winston, you know what this means."

He nodded. "Joseph will out himself tonight."


"Oh yeah," Winston replied as he grabbed his keys, "I'm giving you away..." He grinned and patted his pocket again. Ain't nothing free in this world, Lattie love, he thought and reached for the door.


"Yeah, don't need to take care my little sister no more..." The smile had faded from his face. "Now you be sure and get some good music for the party. I like the way you strut."

Lattie looked away and bagan to wipe her hands on a cloth. "Yeah, well Joe -- he don't dance so good you know."

"Hey, you gotta have dancing at a wedding. I'll talk to him. We can shoot some hoops out back."

Lattie took the cloth to the flour covered worktop. "Joe isn't so hot at basketball. His eyes..."

"No basketball, huh? Well, I guess he needs to keep his energy for the wedding night, right?" Winston grinned and nudged Lattie's arm. "Right?"

Lattie turned away.

Winston's eyes narrowed and his grin faded. "Why you want to marry a white boy anyway?" he said as he headed for the door.

"He's sweet," Lattie shouted after him. "He loves me, treats me nice."

"Nice," Winston mumbled as he picked up the clay doll and pins.


Unknown said...

The dialog is pretty well handled. Some nits though - the "I'm off out . ." took me a few readings to get. The "Why do I have to be here?" line seems a bit forced. He knows why. The author is making him ask it so she can tell us the readers the rest of the information. Try to get the information out more naturally if it's important to the story.

It doesn't hook me. You spend a lot of time telling me what Winston looks like but not what is going on. The routine in the first paragraph is too "routine" or normal to draw me in. The fact that's he's giving her away isn't enough to keep me reading.

Unless essential the physical description can wait a few lines. Use the first 250 words to draw me into the story.

Right now all you have is a dude with dreds going out rather than helping his sister plan her wedding.

none said...


I can't help feeling that either backstory-as-dialogue (aka "As you know, Bob") or describing a character by having him look at himself in a mirror qualifies for instant rejection.

Both together...what's faster than instant?

Openings need to grab the reader. Physical descriptions and backstory can usually wait.

writtenwyrdd said...

Amazing how many of these continuations opted for magic or voodoo.

Author, I liked this beginning well enough because of the voice and how you established the relationship. I think it needs some tightening up still, but I'd have read on, at least for a bit.

I guess you can tell from the continuations that a lot of us thought a Faulkneresque group of poor folks with a Louisianna slant would be the cast of characters. And, truly, I was reminded of "As I Lay Dying" as I read this. Which could be a good thing. It was funny, if sad.

Good things: How you gave a picture of Winston without a mirror or someone telling us with dialog or narrative what he looked like. Also, how you give us comfortable dialog that gives a 'twang' for lack of a better word. It doesn't seem forced.

The only real nit I have is that the first paragraph gives us a little too much. Maybe break it up, have him kiss his thumb to Erzulie and cross for the Madonna during the dialog.

writtenwyrdd said...

I have to disagree buffy. He didn't get his discription from the mirror, it is incidental to finding a smudge on his cheek. I think this first 150 words is interesting enough to open the story. But, opinions do vary, and everyone has one.

jjdebenedictis said...

I quite liked this, in that the characters already seem interesting. I think there's good writing here and potentially an interesting voice. I would read on.

That said, there's no tension. The scene obviously exists just to introduce us to the characters, rather than to get us into the story. I would prefer it if there was at least a hint of juicier things to come.

Anonymous said...

I liked the first two paragraphs. Felt like they established some character and context, and I could picture Winston getting ready to go out.

Didn't like the exchange between Winston and Lattie -- they're telling stuff they already know for the reader's benefit, and it sounds wooden.

Some sense of where this is going and why we should care will hopefully be in the next couple of paragraphs.

Beth said...

This needs reworking. There's no conflict. No hint of a problem to be solved. No tension. And the dialogue sounds contrived in order to deliver information to the reader.

Ask yourself what Winston wants, figure out how you're going to deny it to him, and then rewrite the opening to include some hint of that conflict.

Rachel Green said...

Thank you for the advice, folks, it's appreciated. I can see your points and it does need tightening, but then I submitted it for the advice. Thank you.

none said...

Fair enough, writtenwyrd. But they were close enough together to trigger my reject button.

Like I always say to my cat--you're not a different animal just cos you're approaching me from the left side of my plate instead of the right.

Bernita said...

The writing is nice and smooth, but I agree with Buffy.

Anonymous said...

As interested as I am in reading about cultures not my own, the "as-you-know-Bob" dialogue was an immediate turnoff. I wouldn't read any further.

Evil Editor said...

He looked into the kitchen where his sister was baking . . .

If the opening had ended there I'd have received half a dozen cannibalism continuations. You might want to add "cookies."