Monday, April 14, 2008

New Beginning 485

Pete saw the sign first. “Mom!” he yelled out suddenly, startling Karen. She nearly dropped her coffee. Arkelus barked once, then was quiet.

“Jeez!” Karen said, trying to balance the cup before it spilled over.

“But Mom, that’s the place! See the sign? It says The Winthrop Place, CR 49. What does ‘CR’ mean?” Pete said, more to himself than to his mother.

“It stands for County Road.”

“Oh,” he said. “Duh.” He turned off his mp3 player.

“Don’t worry about it. You won’t be expected to know things like that ‘til you drive. And we both know that won’t be for a long time.”

“Right,” Pete said. “Only eight years away.”

“Mmm.” Karen handed Pete her coffee and turned onto the road, yawning as she did so. “Man, I’m tired. How about you, kiddo?”

“Nope,” Pete said. And he wasn’t. When he first heard he and his mom were moving out to the country, he wasn’t happy about it. But then his friend Ronnie (who was a whole year older than Pete) said, “Are you crazy? A 110-year-old farmhouse out in the middle of nowhere? You know what that means?”

Oh, yeah. Pete knew alright. He knew it would have a dirt cellar. He knew there weren't any neighbors for miles around. He knew he'd be long gone before anyone found the bodies.

Arkelus whimpered and pawed at the rolled-up blanket on the floor. Pete smiled. Am I crazy, Ronnie? Am I? He sipped the lukewarm coffee. By the way, Mom, I'll be driving a lot sooner than you think.

Opening: freddie.....Continuation: iago


Evil Editor said...

Unchosen Continuations:

And he did. Dark unlit basements, strange noises at night, psychotic killers, flesh eating zombies and, best of all, naked college chicks.

"Uh oh." Mom glanced in the rearview mirror. Pete twisted around and saw the beat up county police cruiser behind them, red light flashing. "Wonder what he wants; I'm not doing anything wrong."

Arkelus growled. Pete smiled and switched his iPod to "All-Time Banjo Greats."


Pete loved numbers. All numbers. He adored derivatives. He lived for cosines. As soon as he could escape from The Winthrop Place, he'd paint over the CR on the road sign. He hated letters.

He wanted to kill letters. Murder words. Strangle paragraphs.

Ronnie warned him, about what they did at The Winthrop Place (the looney bin for short). Eight years of intensive therapy, and Pete'd come out with a driver's license and an uncontrollable desire to be an editor.

The outline of the Winthrop Place loomed ahead. Arkelus started to howl. Pete swore that they'd never break him.


And he certainly did. leaky pipes and dirty water, overheating electrics, holes in the roof and damp in the basements, termites and vermin in the walls. Mom would need to call in the trades again, and Pete got ten bucks to go do something everytime mom had a "design conference" with one of the workmen. Six months in that old wreck of a house and Pete was going to be loaded.


Q1: Pete didn't know CR stood for Country Road. What other roadway abbreviations might he not know? (5 pts)

Q2: Pete's dog is named Arkelus. Who or what was also called Arkelus? (5 pts)

Q3: How old is Pete's BFF Ronnie? (10 pts)

Q4: Pete's mom bought a 16oz coffee from the dairy queen before they left. She takes one sip every 20 miles and a sip is one quarter oz. Pete guesses there is about 3oz of coffee left in the cup when he takes it. In what states is it illegal to give coffee to a minor? (25 pts)


"Yeah!" said Pete, suddenly enthusiastic. "Zombies and weredingos!"

Evil Editor said...

No complaints about the writing, but you might consider starting:

Karen handed Pete her coffee and turned up CR49 toward the Winthrop Place, yawning as she did so. “Man, I’m tired. How about you, kiddo?”

Pete turned off his MP3 player. "Nope....

You'll have to introduce the dog somewhere else, but this gets you to whatever is about to happen more quickly. If nothing's about to happen, maybe we're starting in the wrong place.

Anonymous said...

Iago's continuation belongs in the hall of fame. Hats off to you, sir.

The pop-quiz continuation speaks to my only minor comment: Pete declaring (essentially) that he's eight years old. Seemed like you wanted to get across his age without coming right out and saying "he's 8," and your solution to the problem read as a bit too writerly clever. I'd just drop "only eight years away."

Scott from Oregon said...

I had trouble with the whole coffee "cup" thing. Who drives with a cup that needs "balancing".

Coffee spills from cups while driving because it sloshes. Hence the inventin of driving lids.

Balance doesn't solve the sloshing problem...

The fact that the cup is central to the start of this, it seems to be an important detail that should hold water...

pacatrue said...

I liked the start overall and I'd keep reading. The only tweak for me is POV. At the beginning Pete yells out but we don't know why, then later we are entering Pete's thoughts about the move. If we can know Pete's thoughts later, we should know them in the first sentence, too.

Robin S. said...

Hi freddie,

Is this the farmhouse from before- the haunted one? Hope so!

I can't believe I'm gonna do this, and it pains me greatly, but I agree with EE on the starting place for this opening. The writing is good, there's nothing wrong with it, but it's info we can find out later.

iago- you rock.

Stacy said...

Okay, okay. So much for the slow buildup.

This is the start of a chapter. I may make it the start of the novel; I may not. I haven't really decided yet. But I think EE is right in that I take too long to get to the point. And I'll probably do something different with the coffee. Maybe.

I think Pete may be older than eight. For what I have planned for him (bwah hahahahaha), I'm not sure an eight-year-old can handle—even an exceptional one like Pete. He's probably eleven or twelve.

Is Arkelus a real name? I just needed something Greek-sounding, so I made it up, thinking I'd fill it in later with something better.

Nope, Robin, not the same haunted house story as my most recent opening (the one before this one, I mean). It actually goes with another opening I sent in a while ago - the one where Kate is in a kitchen listening to the former caretaker drone on about demons. Except I changed her name to Karen.

I am still working on that other story, by the way. It's just not really cooperating with me right now.

Stacy said...

Oh, I meant to say I liked all the continuations.

My favorites were iago's and the quiz. : )

Stacy said...

I also meant to thank you guys for the feedback. Oops. Thank you!

Xenith said...

Blogger just ate my very long comment. Grr. Now you get the slightly annoyed version :(

First, I'd say you have too many words. Especially about the coffee. Is the coffee significant? (It's poisoned!) Also, some lazy words. We know its said suddenly. It's yelled and has a !, so 'suddenly' is not contributing anything but slowing down the sentence. Anything said suddenly shouldn't be slow. So we could change

Pete saw the sign first. “Mom!” he yelled out suddenly, startling Karen. She nearly dropped her coffee. Arkelus barked once, then was quiet.

“Jeez!” Karen said, trying to balance the cup before it spilled over.


Pete saw the sign first. “Mom!” he yelled, startling Karen. She grabbed her coffee before it tipped over. “Jeez!.”

So we've lost the dog & there's dialogue by two speakers in same paragraph (which irritates me) but it's just an example :)

Also though, I don't get any emotion from this. Words & actions that don't reflect the character's thoughts & feelings, other than a bit of excitement at seeing the sign.


“Nope,” Pete said. And he wasn’t. He peered through the trees looking for the house. (Or across the paddocks for the first sign of the town etc. So his actions are a reflection of where his thoughts & feelings are.)

When he first said his was moving, his friend Ronnie (who was a whole year older than Pete) said, “Are you crazy? A 110-year-old farmhouse out in the middle of nowhere? You know what that means?”…. He had a point. Maybe this wouldn't be the end of the world. (Trying to tie the "flashback" into the current action & his currents feelings)

Whirlochre said...

The first line is overloaded - but not in an Opening way. It's as if you're trying to establish Who's There too quickly. So, what the coffee's doing there I have no idea. In fact, what the coffee's doing there at all, I have even less idea.

After that - it gets rolling and I would read on.

Creepiness beckons.

talpianna said...

Wikipedia lists a number of persons named "Archelaus," which is close. Apparently, all the mythological ones got murdered, so you might want to use the name.

Anonymous said...

The coffee is mentioned three times in 150 words. Unless, in the next 50 words or so, she's going to throw that hot coffee at the zombies that attack her right inside the front door, it's simply not important enough for a leading role.

Starting with food/drink, and starting with arriving somewhere new, are right up (down?) there with 'waking up' and 'answering the phone' among the least interesting openings.

What's the real action going to be in this story - werewolves, buried treasure, creepy neighbour lurking in the yard after dar? - and how can you foreshadow it with some action on page 1?

fairyhedgehog said...

Mignon, that's a great continuation. More background into what goes to make an editor...

Bobbie said...

I recommend Argos.

And my only concern was the feeling you were trying to pin his age at 8 a little too forcefully/quickly. The coffee didn't bother me. If she'd just picked it up at a gas station or something, even a coffee cup lid would allow for a little bit of sloshing around.

And I have an 8-year-old son and an 11-year-old one. And, frankly, I think the 8-year-old would be better equipped for dealing with ghosts, goblins, and the like. "Real" fear hasn't quite kicked in for him yet. But that could just be my kids and a gross generalization.

Anyway... I'd read on. A creepy house on a country road? Count me in.

writtenwyrdd said...

This is a nice little scene. I didn't have trouble with cup balancing, and not with the pov seeing as it's the first sentence (I generally forgive that, assuming a zoom lens sort of focusing in). EE's comment improves it a lot, as the dog really did seem extraneous. I'd have read on, because it's an accesible voice and well handled.

And that continuation is hilarious.

Sarah Laurenson said...

Nice bit of writing. I'd read on for sure. And that continuation is killer, literally. I liked the quiz, too, but now I want to know the answers.

Freddie - a couple of thoughts. The coffee didn't bother me. People eat and drink in the car all the time and not in a smart way either. It made this feel a bit more realistic for me.

What did bother me was getting several names thrown at me at once. And saying Pete will be driving in 8 years did not pin down his age for me. Driving age varies from state to state here in the US (from 15-17 that I know of) and who knows what them there foreigners get up to.

Nice work!

Stacy said...

I find it hard to believe any minions of EE have a hard time with the coffee - especially after all the "accidents" we've had reading EE's blog! ; )

That said, one or two mentions of the coffee will be edited out.

Thanks again for the comments!

Robin S. said...

Now that I know it's a chapter opening, freddie, I think it reads just fine as is - it sounds natural, and we already know the characters, I'm guessing, if we've been reading up to now.