Tuesday, February 17, 2009

New Beginning 607

The man bore down on me, leering with yellow teeth. A light flickered in his eyes as snot oozed from his left nostril. I blinked up at him, keeping my eyes passive, which he took as a sign of surrender. Really, I just wanted to memorize the look on his face right before I ripped out his throat.

I must've looked like easy prey. My silvery-white hair hung down to the small of my back, untamable as a child's; my tight blue jeans hugged my frame nicely. At five-foot seven, I was taller than the other girls he'd killed, but I carried myself with an air of insecurity that told him I wouldn't fight back. The human body is so easy to train.

Swollen purple clouds loomed over our heads, threatening to burst. Summer was screeching to a halt, and soon the scorching Scottsdale desert would be blanketed in torrential rains. I loved the lightning; the way the wide expanse of sky was, for an instant, exposed, but the sudden clapping of thunder made me nervous. It reminded me of my youth.

Days spent in the corn fields of Kansas, and the way the dark clouds would roll over the land before needle-drops of rain pricked our arms -- me and my brother Jimmy, the smart one who went to college and became a lawyer and saved our uncle's farm from foreclosure. It was that farm, or the crops we grew on it, that took me to Arizona and led me to... Shit. Where'd he go?

Opening: Chelsea P......Continuation: anon.


Evil Editor said...

Unchosen Continuations:

"Say, that's a cute Halloween costume, little girl, and a nice wig. What superhero are you?" Mr. Fenimore gasped and stepped back. "Hey! Get away from my jack-o-lantern display!"


. . . at Iron Cactus Nursing school. If anyone had told me back then that snot, green snot, yellow snot and sometimes gelatinous brown-orange snot would be such a disgustingly reliable stable of each day of my life after graduation, I would have produced a laugh of innocent wonder. Now as I stand waiting for Mr. Frampton to lurch his wicked way to my exam table which, god knows why, I always set up in my parking lot, the thought comes to me that the fresh air might do us both some good, do something wholesome to our brains, calming our homicidal impulses.

Nah -- who am I kidding. I'm really hoping that a big rain will come -- one big enough to wash away all my troubles, but mostly -- all of that damn snot!

--r.w. glover

It reminded me of my youth spent in a home devoid of caring and love but filled to the brim with incest, undercooked tuna and noodle casseroles and an astonishing array of snot. I could only hope that this simulation of an ooze attack, sponsored by the Happy Cactus Self Defense School, would allow me once and for all, despite those pesky, pendulous and disconcertingly swollen clouds, to effectively wash my past away.

--r.w. Glover

I crouched almost imperceptibly, tensing to spring and already tasting his blood as it splashed over me.

Unbearable white light flared between us, forcing even my superhuman eyes shut. When I opened them, nothing remained of the man but a pair of blackened boots.

I looked accusingly at the tumescent clouds. "Daddy, you never let me have any fun."
Thor's voice rumbled like heat lighting, shaking my eardrums. "Sorry honey, but you know how your mother worries."


It reminded me of my youth and the first time that a bigger male underestimated me. It was a night like this when my uncle, who was staying with us at the time, tried to enter my bedroom and climb into my bed.

I tried to pretend that I was sleeping as he stood over me. I could smell the alcohol on his breath and feel his hand as he tried to slide it under the sheet. I kept my eyes closed in fear as I felt his hand on my leg. I tried to harness that fear into strength to protect myself. I could visualize what I was going to do as his hand slid further up my leg. I opened my eyes and saw his face in the illumination from the lightning outside. As he put his leg on my bed the thunder outside startled him and gave me my opening. I kicked my leg up as hard as I could into his groin causing him to double over in pain. I jumped out from under the sheet and in one swift motion grabbed the lamp off my nightstand and smashed it over his head. That was when I knew that I would never be taken advantage of—ever.

As the killer reached for me I regained my senses, bringing me back to the present situation. My eyes went from passive to fierce and it caused him to hesitate. It was a costly hesitation for him as my knee slammed him in the groin, but he was still able to grab my arm before I could call for back-up. He smiled at me as he pulled me to the pavement; I could not believe that my kneeing him barely slowed him down. I couldn't let him regain the advantage but he was so strong. He was trying to roll me so that he could sit on top of me. I arched myself so that he couldn't get position on me.

As the rain began to fall heavy, the ground became cold and wet under my back. The struggle was taking a toll on me, but I was determined to not be the weakling that he thought I was and I was even more determined not to be another of his victims. He tried to shift his weight and it gave me the opening I was looking for. I jammed my index finger into his eye and it threw him off balance as he reached for his eye. I was able to buck him off me and slide out from under him. I grabbed him by the hair and shoved his head into the pavement. I did it over and over until he was no longer moving and then I rolled him onto his back.

Over the last eight years this man had been responsible for at least twenty murders of innocent and unsuspecting women. He was the reason that I had become a police officer in the first place, after he killed my sister. I now stood over my uncle refusing to call for back-up. As he opened his eyes and began to smile at me I reached down for him. In one swift move just as he had taught me I tore into his throat with my hand, killing him.

After that night in my room we had become close for some strange reason. I was with him for his first murder and he was with me for mine. But when he killed my sister he crossed the line and we both knew that sooner or later this day would come. But instead of arresting him I had regained my thirst for blood and as I dropped my badge next to his lifeless body, I called in for back-up units and fled the scene. I never did go back to Arizona.

--Daniel John

writtenwyrdd said...

This opening is filled with non-sequitirs. Individually, the sentences are rather nice; but you have to look at what the ideas are you're portraying with them, Author. Just a small matter of tweaking so that the ideas are connected.

Perhaps it would help to check out the definition of a paragraph, which is basically a group of related ideas that support the main idea introduced by the first sentence. A conclusion should be reached in the paragraph, or an idea be communicated, and random bits of non-related stuff should be omitted or made a part of the main point.

But you have the reader being forced to try and figure out what you mean when unrelated ideas are tossed at us. This pulls a reader out from the story and makes them not believe you know what you are doing.

For example, the second paragraph:
I must've looked like easy prey. [We expect to be told why here] My silvery-white hair hung down to the small of my back [good, this implies she's old or looks old and vulnerable to attack], untamable as a child's [Bad; untameable hair is irrelevant to the issue of being vulnerable and is distracting]; [semicolon use implies a conncetion; you might want to look up the punctuation rules for this] my tight blue jeans hugged my frame nicely. [Big non-sequitir here, as the tightness of blue jeans has nothing to do with looking like easy prey!] At five-foot seven, I was taller than the other girls he'd killed, but I carried myself with an air of insecurity [a bit vague and a bit telling not showing, but focused on the point of the paragraph] that told him I wouldn't fight back. The human body is so easy to train. [This is a nice implication, actually, but doesn't really support the main point, which is about her vulnerability.]

I hope this is helpful. I rather liked the voice you express here and would have liked to find myself really absorbed by this opening. It's not quite there yet, however.

Evil Editor said...

As the continuation author shows, the tense situation that's been set up is evaporating in a description of the weather. And memories of the narrator's youth. When a throat is about to be ripped out, we don't care how her jeans fit or whether there's rain in the forecast. We want blood.

Anonymous said...

Yes, because when I'm being attacked, I always stop to ponder how fine my ass looks in these jeans.

Dave Fragments said...

That extra long continuation is a very nice, short-form story. Creepy too.

Wes said...

Very interesting comments. They should help you, Chelsea.

Para 3 doesn't move your story forward. In fact, it pulls the reader out of it. All of this is fixable as WW and EE have discussed.

Robin Wendell said...

So what I am getting is this: if you put someone's hand on a bodice it better be starting to rip in the space of three hundred words?

When writing the continuations I did not realize at the time but do now that the segue into childhood and the weather made it hard for me to continue in anything other than satire. It’s like you are making love and the guy looks you in the eye with wild intensity and moans, “I’ll have a grilled cheese sandwich with gherkins on wheat - hold the mayo.”

I don’t read much suspense so I have little to go on but I'm curious.

In sex there is a before, a during and an after. So, in suspense writing is it the norm to always start with or at least quickly get to the ‘during,’ leaving the ‘before’ and ‘after’ for later?

Maybe if suspense openings were given a bigger word count in new beginnings they could get a little ‘before’ or ‘after’ in the piece along with the blood gushing to the floor. All blood and no background comes off as unreal. All background and no blood and it’s boring. In this beginning it was the promise of blood and then all background which was a distracting tease.

I hope the other comments help you get the balance right. I’m just sitting around thanking my lucky stars that I don’t feel the urge to write suspense. It looks like a tricky thing to pull off right from the start.

Your writing has nice imagery and flow. Good luck with your development of the piece.

RW Glover

Chelsea Pitcher said...

EE, do you think you influenced the continuations by calling the excerpt "Ooze"?

Daniel, you nailed it!

Evil Editor said...

It's not essential to get to the blood immediately, but here I don't think the beginning is at the beginning. To me this reads better if it starts with the third paragraph, then the second, then the first (some minor tweaks needed), progressing toward the attack. Tension building. Here we're moving away from the attack, tension dissipating. If you're going to start with the action of the first paragraph, which is fine, it's best to skip the jeans and the weather.

Anonymous said...

There's something about the second sentence in the second paragraph that rings false to me. Other than that point I'm tracking with your character's voice (even through the bit about the weather), but "silvery-white hair... untamable as a child's" strikes me as an unlikely way for a person to describe themselves. This feels more like the author's opinion than your character's voice.

none said...

Third paragraph disease.

Why not switch paras 2 and 1 around?

(I don't think the human body is that easy to train, really; it's just that most people aren't very good at reading micro expressions)

Robin B. said...

First, I gotta say, I've been remiss in saying, these anon continuations are a hoot. Not that I don't like the others, but these just kill me.

Hi Chelsea, I'm not gonna read the other comments, so I can give you my own reaction when I read your opening - it seemed to me like you jumped from point to point in and around the scene, and I felt this sense of 'working to include backstory' kind of a feeling when I was reading.

You've got a lot of good stuff here, but it's masked by this 'working to include' kind of feeling. Also - and this truky may just be me, the second sentence - the snot thing - seemed like overkill to make a point. I think i'd rather hear about his breath, or his breathing, or how his hands felt on the narrator (but take that with a grain of salt - it may just be me).

As for the description of the narrator, I know it's tough to do with a first person narrator, but I'd work not to explain her looks in the first few paragraphs. I realize that runs counter to so many 'here's how to write an opening' deals, but it just feels too set up to me.

I loved the third paragraph - beautiful writing. Not sure how to marry that with the opening two paragraphs.

Is this a novel, or a short story?

Chelsea Pitcher said...

Thanks everyone :) Your comments were great. I think I know what I need to do.