Wednesday, May 07, 2008

New Beginning 496

They call me the Mexican Mr. Clean. I smile when I mean it, out of pure happiness: a Buddha smile on a strong and lean Mexican-American man. I am smiling. If you were to see me on the street waiting for the bus, I am the bald guy in the black T-shirt, black Levi’s, and nice, clean, black shoes. I don’t look like I know the exclusive handshakes of the gangs. I look like an undercover cop. But, I am far from that.

I know Phoenix from the east to the west of the Praying Monk better than most. Did I mention I’m smiling? I am recently out of prison, and making up for lost time. Time lost can never be found again, I know. But, in the 15 years my daughter has been alive, I have not been enough of even a part of her life. I was in prison for three years.

Three years in the joint. And if you'd picked up the soap as many times as I have, they'd call you Mr. Clean, too. Still, you've gotta smile, right? Don't you?


Opening: Anon......Continuation: Anon.

29 comments:

Sarah Laurenson said...

Interesting beginning. I think I like it, but it's not flowing well for me. And all that tripping up I'm doing is interrupting the information flow as well.

Love the continuation. Don't drop the soap!

Evil Editor said...

The narrator has chosen to open by telling us about himself. That could be best, we can't tell until we know what kind of story we're dealing with. What strikes me is that most of the sentences could be rearranged, which usually means it's listy and needs transitions from idea to idea. Here's the same opening with the sentences in a different order:



They call me the Mexican Mr. Clean. If you were to see me on the street waiting for the bus, I am the bald guy in the black T-shirt, black Levi’s, and nice, clean, black shoes. I don’t look like I know the exclusive handshakes of the gangs; I look like an undercover cop.

I am smiling. Did I mention I’m smiling? I smile when I mean it, out of pure happiness: a Buddha smile on a strong and lean Mexican-American man.

I am recently out of prison, and making up for lost time. I was in prison for three years. Time lost can never be found again, I know. But, in the 15 years my daughter has been alive, I have not been enough of even a part of her life.


I dropped the last sentence of p.1, which isn't telling us much, and the Phoenix sentence, which doesn't seem connected to anything else here. You may or may not like this version any better, but it at least demonstrates that the info can be rearranged. I assume he's Mr. Clean because of his shaved head, so putting the sentence with bald after the Mr. Clean sentence makes that more clear and ties one idea to another. I also moved the prison sentences and the smiling sentences close together.

Sarah Laurenson said...

I like your version much better, EE. It's not as disjointed.

There is one thing that stands out for me though and that's the lost time. His daughter is 15. And he's talking about not being there for her but he was only in jail for 3 years. There's 12 years of explanation missing here.

Wes said...

The power of organization and transition!!!!! Nice rewrite, EE.

Bernita said...

Definitely an interesting and intriguing beginning.

Anonymous said...

This attracted my interest (although I didn't get the Phoenix/East Monk stuff)and I liked the strong voice and the Buddha smile. So I would read on.

BTW Excellent continuation!

ME

Stephanie said...

I like this opening, but I think if you condensed and rearranged it a little it might flow better. I hope we get to hear more about the daughter soon.

writtenwyrdd said...

I liked the voice, but EE's edit works so much better, I'd advise you to take it and run.

I have no clue what we are in for in this story. it could be ANYTHING. But I'd have read on.

Scott from Oregon said...

I know the expression "Mexican American" is PC and all, but would a guy three years in prison be so PC?

Ink Wiring Mimes want to know...

Robin S. said...

Well, I just had time to sit and read this and I have to say, I diagree with you guys. I really like this - I'm interested and I want to know more. I'd have kept reading had there been more to read.

I didn't think of it as listy. I have to think that one through, because, as much as it pains me to admit it, I usually agree with EE.

talpianna said...

The Praying Monk is a rock formation on the side of Camelback Mountain:

http://tinyurl.com/3v9voe

It's not all that large, compared with the mountain as a whole, so knowing it from the east to the west is a fairly shallow pool of knowledge.

Julie Weathers said...

I like the premise and I like EE's rewrite. It seems to have a little more polish.

I have to wonder, as well, why he's been in prison for only three years and he's never been part of his daughter's life.

This is very intriguing and I'd read on.

Robin S. said...

Wasn't the author pointing out a specific area of Phoenix with the mention of the Praying Monk- in that case, size doesn't matter.

Wonderwood said...

Thank you, anonymous, for that continuation. What a laugh!

I was intrigued by the opening, and I agree it flows better as EE has rearranged it. I'd have kept reading as it was, though. The pieces are there to get me interested, but the art of the craft is in the rewrite. Good luck with it.

ChrisEldin said...

I just noticed there's a plethora of healthy avatars on this particular post.

Wes is horseback riding.
Robin is sailing.
Wonderwood is golfing.
Scott is hiking.

Can't someone just have an avatar scrubbing the floors or making noodles? :-)


I liked this opening, but LOVE EE's rewrite. It makes so much more sense. I would've kept reading anyway though.

Whirlochre said...

I like both versions and would happily read either.

Robin S. said...

EE, how did you know when you were reading this, that it was listy?

I'm interested because I didn't see that at all, so what makes it that way to you?

Evil Editor said...

I mean listy not in the sense that the author includes lists (which is more common), but in the sense that it's a list of pieces of information about the narrator.

I was in prison for three years. They call me Mr. Clean. I know Phoenix. I'm smiling.

Those sentence can be plucked out and dropped back in anywhere and it reads as well. There are some transitions:

I don’t look like I know the exclusive handshakes of the gangs. I look like an undercover cop. But, I am far from that.

I am recently out of prison, and making up for lost time. Time lost can never be found again, I know. But, in the 15 years my daughter has been alive, I have not been enough of even a part of her life.

In those two sections the sentences follow each other logically. In other sections there's a feeling of choppiness, jumping from idea to idea. A cohesive piece should have smooth transitions from sentence to sentence all the way through.

Robin S. said...

OK- I just went back and reread.
The first sentence, to me, is a very good hook of an opening sentence, as it tells me who's talking, that he has a sense of humor, and because I have both a picture of Mr. Clean and a picture of what he looks like (to me) in my mind, all at the same time. So I want to read on, because in one sentence I know - this is a guy I want to know more about.

Then- his smiling sentences flow from the picture of Mr.Clean's face on the bottle - I think that must be why I didn't think of them as being sentences that could go in any order - because they flowed from my image of Mr. Clean, with his big smile and his bald head.

I thought this one and the cherry blossom opening were two fo the best that have been on for a while.

Evil Editor said...

I can see where you're coming from, especially since you obviously saw the line They call me the Mexican Mr. Clean as referring to his looks. I didn't think that was so clear. According to Wikipedia: Mr. Clean has been used as a derisive term in the same manner as goody two shoes or Boy Scout, describing someone who displays conspicuous morally upstanding behavior.

I wasn't clear on whether it was looks, or if it might mean he's always clean or he cleans up other people's messes (not as a janitor; as a fixer, Michael Clayton-like).

Also, he wears a black T-shirt and Mr. Clean wears a white one.

So for me, getting the sentence in which he claims to be bald close to the Mr. Clean sentence helps clarify his meaning.

Robin S. said...

I thought the black T-shirt and the Mexican Mr. Clean went with the opposite of Mr. Clean and his white T-shirt.

But I see what you mean - if you 'see' Mr. Clean as the cleaning product mascot guy, with his smile and his baldness and his T-shirt, the picture flows on. If you don't, it doesn't.

I hope the author pops on to tell us his intentions for this opening.

Wes said...

EE, thanks for the answers to Robin's questions. I'm sure they are a great help to many people, but they definitely address some of the issues I'm wrestling with in my current rewrite.

Evil Editor said...

If he were the opposite of Mr. Clean he'd have a full head of hair. And Mexican isn't the opposite of . . . what the heck is Mr. Clean?

Robin S. said...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wbiofcuTZBowasqa

Come on - you don't remember this guy? Even if in later technicolor commercials?

Maybe I have an idea about my weekend ad now. Adding you in there, of course.

So- no, I don't see hairy as the opposite. I see white, white-shirted and white-haired bald guy with big he-man arms and the opposite for me, when the narrator says Mexican Mr. Clean - a big bald honey-skinned man. With a smile.

Evil Editor said...

Now to me, the opposite of a big, bald white guy is more like this

Robin S. said...

I just checked your opposite picture, and I'm laughing my ass off.

As I just finished suffering through a county inspector's, um, inspection of our addition-from-hell-that-is-taking-beyond-forever, I needed a chuckle, so thanks!

Apparently we have very different ideas about opposites, Sparky.

Beth said...

Who's the audience for this? Does anyone under, say, 40 even know who Mr. Clean is?

I thought it was awfully choppy and disjointed. EE's rewrite was an improvement, but it has deeper problems, IMO. On the one hand, you've this Mexican guy who's buff, bald, and happy (not _my_ mental image of an undercover cop, BTW)juxtaposed with the plot element of prison and re-entering his daughter's life, which seems rather serious--well, the tone just doesn't match the subject matter. And I found the voice irritating. I know everyone else here liked it, so it must just be me.

talpianna said...

I've always thought of Mr. Clean as some sort of djinn. He's hairless, he wears an earring (not so common for men in the heyday of this commercial), he has magical powers, and he comes out of a bottle.

Bonnie said...

I always thought Mr. Clean was a gay ex-boxer, actually. And the opposite of Mr. Clean is Mr. T.

I agree that the writing could be streamlined a bit, but I still found the voice annoying. Anybody who talks that much about himself as subject comes across as entirely too self-congratulatory for my taste.