Thursday, January 15, 2009

New Beginning 596

I was the fast one, Jeff was the slow one, and Tony, he of the public school, he had no speed at all.

But when we'd get high, that's when we were all the smartest, all of us smart together, smart and fast and funny. One night we cooked up three boxes of macaroni and cheese dinner, the cheap boxes with the little skinny tubes of macaroni, and we threw in a couple of cans of tuna fish, and some chopped green onions from this little plastic planter out on the back porch steps, and we poured it all into a big lettuce-green Tupperware bowl and stood at the kitchen counter, spooning it out in our right high state and laughing our asses off at just how good it was, how it was better than steak, how it was fucking great tasting.

And someone started chanting, I think it was me, Hey, it's the Jeff and Tony Dog and Pony Show, and that stayed with us, a theme song without the music, the whole time we lived together.

"Yes, yes, that's all well and good, Binkspitzer. It sounds delicious. But we're looking for something a little more sophisticated for the inauguration banquet."

Opening: Robin S......Continuation: Anon.


Evil Editor said...

I don't get why Jeff is called the slow one if Tony has no speed at all. Sounds like Tony would be called the slow one if he's slower than Jeff. Also, what kind of speed are we talking about? Quick-wittedness? He had no speed at all is an odd way to say someone isn't quick-witted.

I don't see what the story about the tuna/macaroni has to do with being fast or smart. Maybe this should start with One night we cooked... You can show us who's fast and who isn't instead of telling us. Presumably you do show us if it's important.

How come Jeff and Tony get their names in the theme song, but not the narrator?

Anonymous said...

Maybe the narrator could score drugs easily and quickly while Jeff's connection took a long time to get ahold of and Tony was the one who could never score any speed at all?

Anonymous said...

he of the public school (delete. It's awkard and implies people from public schools are inferior- thats a lot of people to offend. )

But when we'd get high, that's when we were all the smartest,(I get what your trying to do but this just reinforces the MC positon that people from public school are stupid- you might even get away with this opinion if you give me a reason to like your MC but you don't) all of us smart together, smart and fast and funny. (I'd rather see how yall are smarth, fast and funny than have you tell me- it's like ammerican idol. I can sing!... Simon: Are you high?)

Wes said...

Ditto on what EE wrote.

jaz said...

I like the public school reference, although maybe not the phrasing (he of). Nice revealing of POV character. It reminded me of people who I know would joke around with each other like that--reading this evoked a vivid image of that kind of group of guys. So I would at least keep the concept.

Dave Fragments said...

I'm going to say things that won't sound nice but I need to make a point. I once was talking to a high-school drop out who became the (insert small town's name) local reprobate, bad boy, chief drunkard and Marijuana fiend. He destroyed so many brain cells he was nearly a grade school drop out, so I knew (being a college graduate) that I had a better brain than he did. Well, he had an insight into people and a common sense about good people and nasty people that I didn't. A sweet, caring guy with honest feelings (if he ever got away from the drugs, booze and more drugs). Crap was I wrong and I think of that anytime I feel like trotting out the brain to massage my ego and make myself feel good.

So the point is, that opening sentence is a bit too much of a shortcut. It reads like "Here's brains, no brains and utterly stupid." I know you didn't mean to do that. It's not the way to open a story. You need to write a few more words to establish your characters. The three guys sharing a theme song over Mac and Cheese while high is only a start.

This sounds like the story of three boys turning into men. You need that information to open the story. You try to show it with the Mac and Cheese scene but it's not there yet.

I know of a good opening line for coming-of-age stories but it won't do us much good here. You don't want to merely copy another idea.

fairyhedgehog said...

I liked this opening.

Sorry, that's not much help but I did.

Anonymous said...

I like Tony. I got the feeling from the first sentence that he's like the porridge that is not too hot, not too cold, but just right.

Two greens in the 2nd paragraph -- you might want to mix it up a bit in the Tupperware department.

Nice feeling for guy talk. Like EE I was confused by the chanting. Perhaps the narrator is a girl and she wants to remove herself, (be the observer), from her two pals with their mouths full of mac & cheese?

I liked it, the food part made me want to stop working and have lunch. Peanut butter and pickle on whole wheat -- yummy.

Xiexie said...

Yay! I'm not the only one who loves PB& pickle or PB&J&pickle.

Moving on, I agree, change "he of the public school" -- it's awkward. I don't know, maybe he could be called "public school Tony" (would that be a hyphenate?).

The voice works for me, but it is a bit too showy. I think you're scene's a good one, but it could better show us who's the fast, slow and crawling? one if the cooking scene was expanded with actions by the narrator and the roommates.

Chelsea Pitcher said...

I didn't take offense to the public school thing, and I went to public school. I think some people expect to get their intelligence from school and some people just have it.

I also got why the food-making was interpreted by the characters as being smart. (Probably because I've had ample opportunities to observe pot-heads in their natural habitats.) I feel like that passage is more about the pot making them feel smart, rather than actually making them smart, which to me feels very accurate.

I didn't have a problem with the opening line. My issue came with the next line. I felt like, "we were all the smartest, all of us smart together" was repetitive. I think, "But when we'd get high we were all smart together, smart and fast and funny," would have worked better for me.

A couple of nitpicky things: using the word "little" twice in the second paragraph tripped me up a bit. Maybe consider just saying "the cheap boxes with the skinny tubes of macaroni." Also, for some reason, I felt like the last line of that sentence would've hit harder if it read, "... how it was better than steak, how it was fucking fantastic." I felt like "great" didn't have quite the oomph I felt the sentence deserved.

I liked this. You have a really remarkable way of making your characters instantly personable.

none said...

Actually, a child's potential intelligence is mostly genetic; whether they achieve that potential is mostly environmental.

Brenda said...

I don't have a problem with the public school issue either and I'm a public school person. I do know a lot of private/homeschool kids DO think the way the MC thinks, so it's fitting.

I love reading Robin's stuff. It washes over you like silk, gliding easily with a great pulse beneath it.

Robin B. said...

Hi guys, and thanks for the comments and ideas!

his scene is from the same chapter as the one yesterday, and it's most likely the last piece of writing from my novel that will be on EE's blog. Makes me kinda sad, (but I bet ole' E's relieved)!

Anyway, there's an early reference in the novel about Catholic elementary school being segregated into three classes per grade, by IQ, as it was backin the day. The narrator, a girl (you were right, RW) is talking about the guys, her new roommates - but she will always be a visitor with them in her own mind.

And Chelsea, you were right on the money. I was trying to blend the old Cath school stuff (the narrator had been in school with Jeff) with the pot-produced mellow 'smartness' thing that happens when you're high. (EE, apparently you were a good boy, and did no weed. Bummer.)

I agree there are nits in this that need fixing, and I thank you all for the help! The two 'littles', the two 'greens', and other things.

pulp said...

I second Xiexie: the voice is interesting but too showy. I was thinking "evah so lit'rary", but showy is a better term and not sarcastic.

I wondered why there are two names in the dog and pony show "theme song" when there are three characters, but of course that might be explained later. I did like the first paragraph. Liked it best, actually. Then the sample started feeling too MFA for my taste. Probably will be appreciated more by one of the very young agents out there.

Evil Editor said...

What you're trying to do and what you're doing are two different things. All you're showing in this scene is that smoking dope gives you the munchies and makes even crap taste good. No one says or does anything that could even remotely be considered smart or fast. If the macaroni scene is important, drop the lines about smartness. If the smartness is important, drop the macaroni and write a scene that shows these characters being fast/slow/whatever.

Whirlochre said...

I like this very much, and never noticed a lot of things that other people have pointed out. But that's because I'm just stupid. And I've lived this kind of scene myself (only with worse ingredients).

The public school thing doesn't bother me. It's your scene and you can say what you like. The important thing here is the 'X of the' convention, which I know is one of your writing quirks. Public school reference aside, this has drawn some negative comments. As it happens, I kind of like it.

Stacy said...

This is why it's so tough for me to comment on openings. I sort of agree with EE. But from this opening I can't tell for sure whether you're trying to actually show us whether what the narrator says is true or is just his perception. If it's just the narrator's perception, I think the opening is fine the way it is.

The "he of the public school" phrase made me feel like the narrator is trying to sound smarter than he actually is.

I didn't comment on Robin's last opening because I was too busy learning I get freaked out when I read about pap smears. Pap smears and rape scenes. Can't read 'em or watch 'em.

Anonymous said...

When I read the intro sentence, I thought they were jocks, runners.

Robin B. said...

OK, EE. I'll keep both sections, but surround them with other things. Sounds like, from what I'm reading, if I took out the first paragraph and put it somehwere else, that would solve a lot.

I think this whole thing about the public/private school and the showy voice are kind of fun to read about, since this is written in a redneck persepctive - a decently educated redneck (through the eighth grade), but redneck, nonetheless.

And it's not whether or not the IQ segregation thing is right or wrong, morally or otherwise, it's that it heppened at all, and that's what the narrator is saying, in her own way.

And please know, I'm not offended at all, just interested, by the way. I want to know what you guys think.

Anonymous said...

There are two people whose opinion (here) I'd trust better than my own judgment( or that of my friends). EE and Dave F.

Their words haven't been heard, opinion and loyalty have been confused with good writing advice.-

Which makes me happy. I like less competition in the slush pile.

fairyhedgehog said...

Like freddie, I didn't comment on Robin's last opening because I couldn't bear to read about the subject matter, however well handled. Sorry Robin!

I don't claim to have any expertise so all I can ever give is my response as a reader which is that I liked this. I wanted to know what would happen next.

Evil Editor said...

100 million people have had the experience of getting high and pigging out, and judging by slush, it always proves to be a "you had to be there (and high)" experience.

However this is an excerpt, not an opening, so without reading what came before and what comes after, we can't truly say how relevant and crucial to the main themes of the book this tuna casserole episode is. Only the author knows.

Beth said...

It's got voice. But so far I don't see the beginning of a story, just backstory.

Stacy said...

Their words haven't been heard, opinion and loyalty have been confused with good writing advice.

Nope. We all aim to keep a writer from going out into the world with her fly down.

Robin B. said...

This isn't the beginning of a story, or anything else. It's an excerpt from the middle of a chapter. I'm not sending any more in.

Evil Editor said...

What?!! You're mad at me?!! That's it, I'm not commenting on New Beginnings anymore.

Robin B. said...

No, no. I'm not mad at you. It's just that most comments seemed to have been made like this was an opening rather than a scene/excerpt.

So, since I have no openings to send you, I'm gonna have to wait until I do have some. And that will be a while, when I'm whittled down into my second novel (you know, the 'tasty' one).

I was just saying I don't think the excerpt thing is working for me. I know, I know, I asked for them to be included, and maybe if it was an Evil Excerpt rather than a New Beginning, it would work fine, but this way, not so much, in my most humble opinion. In fact, weren't these supposed to be Evil Excerpts?

And that anon slush pile comment really pissed me off. There's that.

Evil Editor said...

It's easier to make productive comments on an opening, as were in the dark, just like all readers. With an excerpt, other readers have read everything preceding the excerpt, and know the characters and situation, while here we're still in the dark.

Stacy said...

And that anon slush pile comment really pissed me off. There's that.

I don't blame you.

But please don't stop commenting on New Beginnings, EE.

Stacy said...

On the other hand, Robin, you can take comfort in the fact that Anon's punctuation errors will probably make for less competition in the slush pile.

Beth said...

Robin S said: This isn't the beginning of a story, or anything else. It's an excerpt from the middle of a chapter.

How were we supposed to know that? And why send in an excerpt, when you know it's going to be judged as an opening? What were you hoping to get out of it?

Brenda said...

Hahaha! Go Freddie!

Robin B. said...

Hey freddie,
Thanks! I saw it - glad you did as well!

And Beth,

I sent this piece in as an excerpt. If you take the time to go and read EE's rules on sending in work to be critiqued, you'll see there's a choice to send in excerpts. This was noted as an excerpt in the openings list, but not when it came up for critique.

So climb down off of your high horse.

Robin B. said...

I agree,EE.

Please don't stop commenting!

Chelsea Pitcher said...


That Anon's a douche. It's that simple.

I think the confusion comes from people who didn't bother to read others' comments before posting their own. Your first comment here said that this was an excerpt, and the same people who failed to notice are the people who keep referring to your narrator as "he" long after you said it was a she.

Don't be discouraged! I like the submitting-excerpts idea. I bet a lot of us have excerpts we'd like feedback on.


Beth said...

Robin S, I'm not on a high horse. Sorry if it seemed that way. I was just asking what seemed to me to be reasonable questions. I haven't visited EE's site in awhile and had no idea that New Beginnings now included random excerpts.

EE, would it possible in future to label excerpts as such when they are posted for critique?

Beth said...

Btw, I visited Evil Editor's Openings (now there's a clue) and nowhere that I could find does it say that we can send in random excerpts. The guidelines say to submit the first 150-200 words of a WIP. So commenters can hardly be blamed for assuming this to be an opening.

Robin B. said...

Hi Beth,

I promise, it's there:

"To submit an excerpt from your book or story, email to (Not attached). Excerpts should be in the 150 to 200-word range. Longer ones may be trimmed. Submitting an excerpt doesn't commit you to publication in a book, but it's hoped you'll grant permission. Do include the name(s) you want used if you want credit for your excerpt."

There's an excerpt listed now.

Evil Editor said...

I'll try to remember to say if something's an excerpt, assuming the author has so informed me.

The very first post ("Announcement") at Evil Editor's Openings makes it clear that excerpts are okay.

Whether readers know something is an excerpt or not, they are at a disadvantage if it's a random excerpt because they don't know what has come before the excerpt. Thus I prefer that excerpts not be random, but be the beginning of a scene involving new characters. This way we're not expected to already know the characters.

Beth said...

At the risk of being accused of beating a dead horse (after having been accused of being on a high horse--what equine adventure awaits me next, I wonder? Horsing around? Horses of a different color? Leading horses to water?)...

Since the header introducing that page specifies openings, and an opening is also by definition an excerpt, I wouldn't have taken that reference to submitting "excerpts" to mean anything other than an opening. After all, the theme is "New Beginnings."

EE, it's helpful to know that interior excerpts should introduce new characters, so that in essence they read like an opening, but I didn't find that stated anywhere. Maybe it was discussed on the boards here at some point and I missed it.

Evil Editor said...

No doubt you're looking for the following post:

After more than 500 openings, a few authors who'd already sent the opening to everything they'd ever written requested that I accept excerpts. I suggested that the excerpts should be openings to something--a chapter, a scene... to avoid getting feedback like:

Only an insane character would do that.

...which is a worthless comment when the commenter, had she read the hundred pages that preceded the excerpt, would have known the character IS insane.

In short, comments about actual openings are usually useful and comments about random excerpts are often worthless. If your goal is helpful input, be careful sending excerpts. MY goal is entertainment, and if someone comes up with a funny continuation to an excerpt, I'm happy to post it.

Beth said...

Ah! Thanks, EE. I'm obviously out of the loop and behind the curve.

Evil Editor said...

While some minions consider it their responsibility to be familiar with each of the nearly 3000 posts on the blog, and the comments on each of them, it's not a requirement for minionhood.

none said...

100 million people have had the experience of getting high and pigging out, and judging by slush, it always proves to be a "you had to be there (and high)" experience.

Ah, yes. So true.

Beth said...

You are most gracious, O Evil One.