Monday, September 01, 2008

New Beginning 546

Mike picked up Charlotte and held her tenderly in his arms. He looked into her eyes and felt a love deeper than any he could ever have imagined. Even though 6 months had passed, the pain of her arrival still haunted him. As much as he loved her, she had cost him dearly.

His wife, the love of his life, Suzie was lost forever and it was all because of Charlotte, little Charlie. You can’t think like that Mike told himself. After all, despite the heartache and loss Charlie’s birth had caused, he wouldn’t give her up to get his old life back. After all she was his daughter. He just wished Suzie could be here as well.

Charlie wrapped her hand around the end of Mike’s pinky and giggled. The sound of it ripped at his heart; her mother used to laugh exactly the same way. Don’t think about her, Mike told himself. The only way he could get through the days was to suppress any thoughts of Suzie.

Sweet Jesus, Evil Editor thought. This is like a suicide looking for a depression. Is this the start of a new death culture?" He let the page fall to his desk like it was cursed. Three chapters on the death of his wife in childbirth and now the father is contemplating murder? If I publish this, the police will come at me for starting a new wave of euthanasia. He pulled on rubber gloves to handle the pages, shoved them into a bio-hazard bag and dropped them in the nearest "burn-before-reading" bin.

Opening: Shell I.....Continuation: Dave F.


Evil Editor said...

Unchosen Continuations:

He started, guilty, when the nurse cleared her throat. Charlotte settled contentedly in the woman's arms, unaware of the brief, impulsive vision of smothering her. Mike backed away, stumbling over a discarded toy in his haste to flee the nursery.

He was a hired gun yeah, but he didn't kill children--especially his child, and one that belonged to Suzie at that. What was wrong with him? Mike dropped his head in his hands. Was he consumed by that much grief that he'd contemplate snuffing an innocent life?

He had to get out of here. Or get rid of Charlotte. The thought gave him pause. It staggered him. Mike walked into the kitchen and grabbed a beer from the fridge. The ice cold foam matched the temperature his heart should be to even contemplate giving up his daughter. But it would soothe the disturbing images of killing her to avenge her mother's death that kept him awake every night.

No. He slammed the beer on the counter. It would be a gross betrayal of Suzie's confidence in him. She had changed him from the black-hearted assassin the moment he laid eyes on her. Yet wasn't Charlotte in danger? She was a weakness his enemies could exploit. It would be best for everyone if he went back to his lone wolf ways. No daughter, no wife, no house--no anything to hamper his movements. He downed his beer with the setting sun.

--La Belle Americaine

But every grunt little Charlotte let out and the upturn of her little ape nose was a constant reminder. Mike had pushed for posterity, but Suzie had been just as determined not to lose her girlish figure. Why had he ever agreed to go along with her plans to adopt an orphaned ape from Rwanda? Mike knew the trip would be dangerous, too many loosed cannons in that part of the world, but Suzie had insisted, saying that because of the breakdown of their society the red tape there would be easier to manage than anywhere else.

Once in Rwanda they rescued little Charlotte with the help of a tranquilizer gun and a baseball bat. And as their little tin can of a plane rattled to altitude Suzie had a glow about her that Mike had never seen before, but he soon realised the glow was coming from an engine fire. The plane crashed. When Mike regained consciousness he knew Suzie was gone, the pilot, too. So Mike did the only thing he could do to protect what was left of his blossoming family. He threw the ape on his back and started his journey home.


Particularly the way she'd looked at the end, ripped open like that. A truly gruesome site.

Charlie's acid drool ate into his sleeve, and began to burn his arm.

-- Melissa

"Mike? Hello, Mike? Unlock the door, I'm back from the grocery store."

Mike nuzzled Charlie's fuzzy little head and blew in her ear. She chuckled, just the way Suzie did.

"Mike, come on, this isn't funny. Open the door, I have Charlie's formula."

Mike turned the sound up on the Raffi tape. "We don't need anybody else, do we, Char-char? Just you and me, babe."


The phone rang.

'Mike? You wanna fuck real hard, baby?'

His old flame! Margherita!

He tipped a box of toys at his daughter's feet, heated up some milk in the microwave till it twirled half a degree hotter than when he tossed it in, poured it in a plastic Mickey Mouse cup and sat it in her cot, shaved, showered, shat, drove to Wal-Mart and spent $55.65 on pants, wine and aftershave, diced with traffic cops at 155 mph and screeched his people carrier onto the gravel outside Margherita's trailer, swung the door off its hinges, ran into the bedroom and shagged her till the windows shattered from the squeal of her soprano screams and the gas cannister slipped its pipe and sprayed into the night.

Later, when Margherita had re-affixed her teeth, they hugged each other till their skin fused.

'I wanna have your kids', Marg said, her tongue nibbling one ear and poking half a yard out the other.

Mike leapt through the door in a single bound, revved the car till the tires begged for mercy, and made a beeline for The Grand Canyon.


Evil Editor said...

I find it overdone. I'd like it better if you deleted the second paragraph. There's nothing in it we can't get from the other two.

As this scene probably has played out many times over the past six months, I assume this time is different, and something important is about to happen.

WouldBe said...

There's not much to criticize in the writing (dammit). Since EE and Dave both nearly called the suicide hotline, you might consider using a scene like this a little later in the story in flashback after something nice happens. I guess this hook of tragedy has become a cliché as an opener. (If it only gets worse, then ouch!)

Bill H.

Anonymous said...

The text is a series of cliches strung together:

"love deeper than any he could have imagined"

"cost him dearly"

"love of his life"

"heartache and loss"

"get his old life back"

"ripped at his heart"

It is impossible to get a sense of the author's voice in the prose, or any compelling image for that matter. It all sounds like generic-speak. I would not read on.

Dave Fragments said...

This morning, I was in the thrall of a truly evil political blog when I read the "You Be Evil Editor" and consequently, wrote the continuation. Then I had to drive my family to the park. So I didn't have time to comment.

My thoughts when I read this 6 weeks ago, and my thoughts now are the same. This is opening the novel with a huge emotional impact. An emotional impact that overpowers everything else the author could possible say. There's almost no place to go after this. All actions become denouement.

The only story that I know gets away with this is Kafka's Metamorphosis, that opens:
As Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from uneasy dreams he found himself transformed in his bed into a monstrous vermin.
BOOOM! A 2x4 between the eyeballs!
That's the story, but in Kafka's case, he wrote 49 more pages of story, all downhill, all more depressing, all about Samsa's further descent into oblivion as a vermin. We never find out why because it is unimportant after the opening revelation. The family closes the door on his room and only opens it to throw garbage on him... And Samsa just accepts his fate, never explaining, never regretting. That's a horror story.
(BTW insect is the wrong word for many reasons. Cockroach is definitely the wrong word.)

I will get to the point. When you have something of great emotional impact in a story. You must build to it. It can be revealed after the fact. You could start your story with the fact that Mike has regrets about something when he looks at his daughter. You can build to the incident that killed his wife and why he might feel his daughter is to blame. But most men in that situation, would accept the child as a consolation. Mike's regrets are uncommon. At some point later in the story, you can reveal why Mike's behavior towards his daughter is so odd. But up until then, you must prepare the reader with tiny hints.

If you write this emotional an opening, the final climax of the story will have to surpass this, will have to be a greater shock to the reader. The great filmaker Alfred Hitchcock was once asked why he never showed blood in his film. his answer was that the blood shocked for at most 10 seconds. Hs audience went from zero to 60 in ten seconds - hearth-throbbing in chest excitement. ten seconds. When he didn't show the blood, he could ramp the tension up for easily 20 to 30 minutes and have the audience screaming for resolution. When he told the audience what to expect and left the details to their imagination by pulling the camera away, the always imagined something more horrific than he could ever, ever film. And Hitchcock was the master of scary movies.

You write well and this is a grabber. But you might want to tone it way down and let the reader slowly discover the horror involved.

none said...

Eh, I wouldn't read on. Nothing here I haven't seen before.

Julie Weathers said...

I don't particularly think it's too emotional, but you do need to follow up with something unique.

It's well written, but I agree with EE.

I don't think it's one solid string of cliches as anon says, but we do need to be careful of that.

A love deeper than anyone can imagine is exactly how I feel when I hold my babies. I don't know how else a person would describe that feeling. It is what it is.

Anyway, good luck with it and I wish I could be of more help.

writtenwyrdd said...

It felt like one big cliche after another to me, too. It's also very circular and as Dave notes, there's no place left to go from here.

I'd reduce the melodrama and open up the scene to other elements besides his pain. Have him do a bit more stage business, have him consider he has to go to work to keep the baby, have him worry about mundane things--anything that isn't entirely bathetic and let's-dial-the-suicide-hotline inducing.

Because I am not saying this is a bad place to start nor that this pain is bad; far from it. You really induce emotion here! But it's like an inward-turning spiral and leaves you no place to go. So, like i said, open up the action for the future so your writing can unpick the Gordian knot of pain this character is in.

Keep at it; this could be really good, because I think you show a feel for what moves people. Just remember that too much is too much! ;)

Anonymous said...

Unchosen Continuers, especially wo and wendy: made me laugh a lot.

Original beginning: not awful. I personally don't care for so much melodrama in my reading matter, but some people like it. I didn't assume the mother died in childbirth. Any number of things could have happened, and the interesting possibilities would not include death by childbirth. With a little room to move, as suggested by the minions, this could present a mystery worth reading on for.


Dave Fragments said...

I spoke too fast when I wrote my earlier comment.

I just watched "In Bruges" a film directed & written by Martin McDonagh. Staring Colin Farrell, Brendan Gleeson and Ralph Fiennes. Quirky movie. Quite a raging bit of drama.

It has a horrendous act in it that is revealed about 10 minutes into the movie. The "smack in the head" is the accidental killing of an innocent boy by Ferrell who is sent with his partner in crime (hitmen, cold blooded killers) to Bruges.

The movie manages to remain wildly funny despite the subject matter and holds the attention thanks to the moral ambiguity of the killers. Gleeson and Farrell never become cartoons. They are engaging bad boys. However, the midget, the whore, the fat American tourists and Fiennes are caricatures.

In the end however, McDonagh has to up the ante uo on the murders and even though the body count is SIX, it's a bloody, gory, violent and gut wrenching six.

So there is more than one example of where this opening might be going with such an emotional opening... With the fact that the daughter cost his wife her life. I still suggest to the author that this be spread out, make the resentment of the daughter the climax of chapter one. Don't open the novel with the revelation. Give the reader a few pages, a couple thousand words to come to like the father and then, reveal his innermost feelings. Give him a little height or a small pedestal so his fall is that much more shocking. And then, reveal it in plain words, one simple short sentence. Let it grab the heart of the reader and sink into darkness.

Again, "In Bruges" doesn't open with the murder, but it does reveal it quickly, I would say round about the end of chapter one or the middle of chapter two. And it doesn't reveal the accidental shooting until we've already seen some despicable behavior - the first victim being shot five times. Only then does McDonagh release the horror and reveal Farrell as the face-of-evil, as a child killer.

PS: trivia, there are 1.18 f@cks for each minute of the movie (126 times in 107 minutes).

Xenith said...

The third paragraph works: an action, a reaction. We get to see the character, rather than being told what he is feeling.

An exercise: how do you feel when you think of someone/something dear that you've lost. Physically. What sensations? What parts of your body do you feel it in? And then what thoughts do you actually have? What images?