Monday, November 26, 2007

New Beginning 409

Laura couldn’t make her legs move faster. She knew he was behind her, but didn’t know how close. Looking back would only slow her down.

She had been in her garden, at the side of her house, when she first saw him walking towards her. People walk past all the time, but he immediately seemed different. His walk wasn’t the casual stroll of someone clearing their head or walking their dog. He strode forth with confidence and determination. His eyes swept from one side of the narrow street to the other, as though he were looking for something. Laura soon knew he had been looking for her.

When he spotted her, kneeling down in her muddied flower bed, he didn’t look away. He didn’t even seem to blink. He stared. His gaze caught hers, and Laura found it near impossible to look away. He didn’t open his mouth to greet her. He wasn’t a salesman or someone needing directions. This man was dangerous. He had already stepped off of the sidewalk and into her yard before it occurred to her to run.

But it was like she was knee-deep in treacle. The more she tried, the less far she seemed to get. Her heart pounded in her chest and her muscles started to cramp. What could she do? He was younger and faster.

If she stopped to confront him it would mean certain death -- before the end of the first chapter. If she woke from her dream, she would face the certain ridicule of the Feltham Downs Critique Circle. But wait . . . if she could wake him . . . that would be literary irony.

Laura stopped running and turned around. That's when the train hit her.

Opening: Anonymous.....Continuation: Anonymous


Evil Editor said...

Unchosen Continuations:

She sped down the driveway to the metal storage shed where she kept her gardening implements - and other things. Adrenaline surging into her veins, she easily threw aside heavy sacks of peatmoss and potting mix until she came to it. She ripped it free of its protective wrap, hoping the multiple layers of polyethylene had kept the mechanism dry. The burnished metal gleamed, reassuring her. It had been years since she'd used it, but some things you never forget how to do. Sort of like riding a bicycle - or killing people.

Oh, Lord, how long had it been since she'd experienced that delicious sensation? Particularly exquisite when it was someone who really deserved to die, like this son of a bitch.

There he was, standing imperiously at the end of the drive, that predatory look still on his face. Then, as she raised her arm and took aim, the brief look of shock just before his head exploded. Moments later, the body pitched forward, an arm extended, the hand still grasping a copy of The Watchtower.

--Paul Penna

"And that was when she opened fire, correct?"

"Yes," answered Zack Martinez. "She had been stalked by this man for some time, and when he appeared at her home, she behaved in a manner appropriate for someone who is in fear of mortal danger."

"Even though he was merely the UPS man."


She’d just made it to her porch, her heart thumping wildly in her ears, when a low, icy voice came from behind her.

“I’m from the Clean Water Action Committee,” it said.

Laura’s stomach wrenched as she clambered toward the door. She knew this day would come. She’d seen them lurking in the neighborhood before, with their clipboards and organic hemp ponchos. She’d tried to tell herself she was safe with the Bush/Cheney ’04 and “Mess With the Best, Die Like the Rest” bumper stickers on her Hummer. If she could just make it inside the house, find her Ann Coulter books, she might have a chance at survival. But as she reached for the door handle, the gagging stench of patchouli enveloped her, and she fell to her knees, catching a quick glimpse of his Birkenstocks before she passed out completely.


Damn, thought the man as he broke into a run behind her. She recognized me too soon.

After a minute or two, he stopped. What the hell was he doing? Getting sweaty and ruining his clothes, that was what. He had a meeting in less than an hour. He stood up and straightened his tie.

After a moment he spoke aloud. "This must be why I'm in third place. I can't catch any of them."

He turned around and went back to his car. "I may be running for president," said John Edwards as he got in and slammed the door. "But I'll be damned if I'm going to run after every housewife in Iowa to do it."


She ran faster and faster, but it seemed her assailant simply sped up with her. They ran down the street three blocks and almost completely through the park's trail.

"Laura!" the pursuer called out. "Wait! Stop! I . . ." He leaned down, huffing and puffing, and put his hands on his knees. "I need . . . a break."

Laura looked back for a moment but continued to run. She smiled to herself. Maybe now they'll remember my sister, Lola, and decide to leave me alone.


"Whoa, Miss? Miss, it's alright!"

Against her better judgment, Laura paused and turned back toward the stranger. "Wh-- What do you want? I-- I have a, um, dibber..." She brandished her implement.

"It's okay, Miss. I just have a message for you. I work with Thomas -- over at the tracks."

He knew Tom. She relaxed her arm. "Oh, sorry. I just..."

"He asked me to drop by and give you a message. He says... ah... he loves you, he needs you, and he might be late. Seems he's got something to do that cannot wait."


Evil Editor said...

She had been in her garden, at the side of her house, when she first saw him walking towards her.

Is followed by

His eyes swept from one side of the narrow street to the other, as though he were looking for something.

It seems that once he spotted her and strode forth with determination, he was no longer looking for something. He's found it. Plus, was he walking toward her when she first spotted him? If so, she wouldn't know what his actions werre before that. If this is her POV, as it seems, there's too much information in p.2, interrupting the tense moment. She's running away in panic; she's not going to be thinking that he wasn't walking like someone with a dog.

p.3. . . . he didn’t look away. He didn’t even seem to blink. He stared. His gaze caught hers,

Those are baby steps, barely adding anything new.

I'd consider dropping the first two paragraphs and starting something like:

When he spotted Laura, kneeling in her muddied flower bed, he didn’t greet her. He didn't even smile. This was no salesman; this man was dangerous.

He had already stepped off the sidewalk and into her yard before it occurred to her to run.

Anonymous said...

it would be more suspenseful to use a straight timeline. recall the "moving the story forward" expression. here, you keep moving the story backward. this gives the impression your method of writing is to select a start point without knowing how the character got there. then you create an explanatory backstory. then you move forward, only to realize more backstory is needed, sometimes even in the same sentence.

this kills readerly suspense, since we already know what happens. scenes throughout your whole novel probably have actions ordered something like this:


its ok to write all your scenes in zigzags or loops backwards, but they'll usually be more interesting for readers if you then use cut and paste to put each scene in sequential order, and reduce the chatter.


maybe something more like this:

Laura was kneeling down in her muddied flower bed. His gaze caught hers, and Laura found it impossible to look away. He stepped off the sidewalk and into her yard. This man was dangerous. It occurred to Laura to run.

none said...

Why on earth doesn't she just go into her house and lock the door?

Anonymous said...

I echo Buffy Squirrel. What's so unsafe about her own house?

Robin S. said...

I don't know (obviously) who anon 9:19 is, but, whoever you are, I seriously enjoyed reading what you wrote.

The continuation was so good.

Chris Eldin said...

Anon 9:19 is smarter than your average minion and is therefore either a professor or editor.

I loved it when it was shortened to what EE and Anon E wrote.

I loved Paul's continuation. It picked up on the zigzag timeline perfectly.

McKoala said...

I think it's a great place to start, but I do agree that the straight timeline suggested by EE/9.19 would work much better.

Anonymous said...

This was my first NaNoWriMo attempt, and hasn't yet seen an editing pen (that's what December's for, right?). I agree that EE's condensed version is MUCH better. Thanks for the input!

Wonderwood said...

Author, it's a good starting point but, as the others suggested, I think it would be much improved if you skip the passive retelling and go straight to showing us what happened in good ol' past tense.

This made me laugh so hard I had to stop reading, go back and read it to that point again:

"The more she tried, the less far she seemed to get."

Brilliant continuation!

Evil Editor said...

Author: Would you object to your piece being included in Novel Deviations 3, a collection of New Beginnings? If not, would you prefer to be credited or to again be anonymous?