Monday, October 27, 2008

New Beginning 566

When the outside door banged open, Gilles Regnier was talking on the phone. He spun around. The chill scent of outdoors filled the room, fluttering the Christmas cards that still clung to the refrigerator door. His wife stood in the doorway, wind whipping her dark hair and her long, moss-green coat. Her eyes were bright, her cheeks blooming from her walk. Heavy clouds darkened the sky behind her, dimming the kitchen, obscuring the gleaming modern appliances and recalling the room’s roots in a past century. To leave this old farmhouse would tear out her heart, but it must be done.

He turned briefly back to his phone call. “It’s only Gabrielle. I’ll see you soon, then.” He hung up and beckoned her in. “Shut the door, Gabi,” he said in French. “Where’s Dom?”

“He went up the back way. What’s wrong?”

He crossed the room and laid his hands on her shoulders, wishing there was time to break the news gently. “They’ve found me out. They’re coming. We have to go.”

“No!” The exclamation was involuntary. “Oh, Gilles. How long?”

"About the same, last I measured, ma chérie. I'm not sure if those pills I bought online are working after all." He shook his head and gripped her shoulders more tightly. "That's beside the point, though! We have to go!"

Opening: Jeb.....Continuation: Ellie


writtenwyrdd said...

Axe that first paragraph. It gives the wrong cues for the following action, which deals with him telling Gaby they have to leave.

The opening para is a bit melodramatic, but overall the dialog and writing isn't bad, it just reads pretty rough still.

I was curious and would have read further to see why they had to leave, what was found out about the husband.

Sarah Laurenson said...

I don't know. The first time I read it, I didn't really get a sense of what was going on. I also had some POV issues with the leaving would tear her heart out but she didn't know they were leaving at the time of that thought.

On a second read, I realized it was his POV and I got a better sense of the action. I spent some time reading it through to try and figure out what was bothering me. Not sure I came up with an acceptable answer.

I'm not sure if the name threw me and that's why I was confused about POV.

For me, there's too much description. I think most books have too much description so I'm not sure that helps any. But I'm also not getting the flow here.

Maybe because we are seeing every little thing and I don't think we need to. I don't think we need his ending conversation on the phone - it doesn't add anything - or hanging up the phone.

I'm not sure we need to know he's speaking in French. Does that really matter?

Or it might just be because my tooth is hurting and I have the attention span of a gnat this morning.

Evil Editor said...

If she's standing in the doorway and the lights are off, I wouldn't expect him to notice her eyes and cheeks. If the lights are on, I wouldn't expect the kitchen to be dimmed by opening the door. Nor would the appliances be obscured by opening the door, not as much as they're already obscured by the Christmas cards.

Deborah K. White said...

The first paragraph did seem a little description-heavy, which lessened the tension created by his jumpy response to the slamming door. Perhaps you could cut a few of the descriptions that aren't so important now and, if need be, work them in later.

Other than that, I had no problems with it.

Anonymous said...

You have A LOT of adjectives in that first para, and then you indulge in several participial phrases which also modify nouns. Cut some, clean some.

In the second para, you don't need the (adverb) "briefly" because we clearly see that the conversation terminates almost immediately. Don't need hung up--we assume that from our own experience with ending phone calls. Just say he beckoned her in. Also don't know why you need to say in French. Does she answer in French? Are you going to tell us every time he speaks in French?

The set up is good-we want to know why they have to leave. But the writing is keeping us from getting there fast enough. In other words, it's intruding on the story.

Brenda said...

I didn't have a problem with POV or with the descriptions. I liked the descriptions. It's not a POV issue for your POV character to innately know a situation is going to be upsetting to another character. I know what would upset my kids, for example, before I ever had to tell them and SEE/HEAR their thoughts and feelings.

Additionally, you can have a kitchen lit by windows only, and it still be deary inside, but not so dreary you can't see rosy cheeks or shining eyes. I read the shadowing to be changed because the main source of light changed in the scene. Obviously I didn't have a problem with that either. Maybe re-wording it would help. Is it due to the shadows shifting in the kitchen when the doors open, or because the outside, even being overcast, is still brighter than the inside, and thus the things inside seem to draw back to one's eyes? I don't know if I'm making sense in what I'm attempting to explain.

I liked it. I liked him putting emphasis on the house and the kitchen and her love it, knowing he was about to take away something he knows she cherishes. It starts with action, the moment something changes that makes that day different from all the other days in one's life.

The only thing I'd change is the phone call. Your first sentence is passive. I'd have no speaking on the phone call (the "It's only Gabrielle" part). Maybe start with "The outside door banged open as Gilles Regnier hung up the phone. He spun around, adrenaline pumping, but it was his wife who stood in the doorway..." (I assume he spun around like that because the phone call just let him in on him "being found". Play up the anxiety a little there.

So, I'd cut the entire second paragraph. I don't know who Dom is, or how/if it's important to mention him here, but it seems to me his urgency should be placed on 1) the phone call that apparently let him know he'd been found out and 2) his wife's upcoming angst over leaving a place she obviously loves. Dom can wait.

I'd read more.

Dave Fragments said...

I think most of that first paragraph should wait for the dialog to establish the tension of their leaving.

Let's reduce this to essentials, get rid of a "was". The changes are in bold.
When Gabrielle banged the outside door open, Gilles Regnier finished his phone conversation and turned .
“It’s only Gabrielle. I’ll see you soon, then." He continued without a pause. Gabrielle, “Where’s Dom?”
“He went up the back way. What’s wrong?”
“They’ve found me out. They’re coming. We have to go.”

Now that leads to many possibilities:
1) They can have a sentence or two about leaving at Christmas: "The kids will be crushed"
2) They can discuss how much one or the other likes the house and area. "one of my regrets is this running..."
3) They leave in the cold weather and maybe they leave the Christmas cards behind. Or maybe she pulls the card down at the last minute knowing that they are for her eyes only, never to be answered because the mail is traceable. Bittersweet.
4) They partially reveal the reason for their being on the run. This too. Perhaps she doesn't know why, perhaps they have to split up.

Opening with the dialog lets you create the tension, following with the details lets the characters as the characters react to the news reveals their feeling and locations.

batgirl said...

Hm. I read the 'said in French' to his wife as indicating that he'd been speaking in English on the phone - but it did slow me down to work that out.
The writing is smooth. The tension could maybe be upped a bit by a little trimming. I'm not sure yet which details are going to be important, so I hesitate to say which you should cut, but I have heard the rule of thumb that 3 details make a description.

none said...

No, it's not a POV slip, but it reads like one initially. Having to go back and re-read means instant death in the slush-pile.

talpianna said...

What I don't understand is why, if they are on the run and presumably trying to hide their identity and location, they are getting all those Christmas cards?

EB said...

I agree with most of the other comments (eg, the POV confusion that wasn't atually a POV confusion on second reading but might as well be because it forced a re-reading to clarify; the over description; the hard-to-picture blocking of the entrance and lighting). But from a story perspective, I think Tal's comment was the most astute.

If a phone call is enough to make Gilles run, why are they hunkered down in a way that allows people to reach them in such a simple way?

As far as nits, I found "the exclamation was involuntary" sort of a throwaway line. Let the dialogue work for you there.

Evil Editor said...

why are they hunkered down in a way that allows people to reach them in such a simple way?

One possibility is a witness protection program that gave them new identities in some small town. The Christmas cards could be from their new neighbors, and it may have taken their enemy twenty years to find them for all we know.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for all the feedback. I'll take it into account when I get on the rewrite.

(and yes, Dom is important - the character around whom all subsequent action will center - although maybe he doesn't need this early a mention)