Monday, February 09, 2009

New Beginning 603

I locked eyes with my fellow job candidate, trying not to smile at his surprise. "Yes, I'm serious, Joe. Turn around."

A mottled flush crawled up his neck. "I can't ask you to do that." He shot a glance at the receptionist, the only other person in the late-70's-style waiting room plastered with Toronto Hogs hockey team posters and memorabilia, but her focus on her computer remained absolute.

"You didn't ask, I offered. And your shoulders are right up to your ears. Don't look a gift massage in the mouth."

Since I'd already been waiting a good ten minutes, although they'd flown by in his company, I probably didn't have long before my interview, but I couldn't leave such a nice man without at least trying to reduce the awful tension I'd noticed in him.

"This feels good, right?" I let my fingers work the knots in his shoulders."

"Uh, yeah... I guess..."

His warm, musky smell mixed with expensive cologne, while the receptionist tapped at her computer.

I leaned in closer and let my hair gently brush his cheek. "Married?"

"Y-- Yeah..."

"Thought so," I said. "Still, you seem the liberal type...?" I let my breath caress his earlobes, and knots tightened under my hands and his skin flushed red again.

The receptionist's phone trilled. She looked up and smiled. "You can go in now, Mr. Linklater."

"Maybe I'll, ah, see you later?" I said with a firm squeeze before I headed for the office door, thanking the receptionist on the way, confident that my fellow candidate's interview was not going to go well at all.

Opening: Heather Wardell.....Continuation: anon.


Evil Editor said...

Unchosen continuations:

But then it occurred to me: I knew an even better method, which would no doubt work for both of us.

Eyeing the receptionist, I said casually, "Of course, a hummer might do us both good. Care to step into the john?"

"Um, oh, but Mr. Clinton--"


And once he was a quivering lump of relaxed jelly on the floor, I'd walk over him and get the job.

Nice just gets nicer.


Whirlochre said...

I get what's going on here, but I'm having to dig for it, and I think that's all down to the order in which you've presented things.

Para 1 is fine, and the crawling action of a mottled flush in para 2 maybe only a maybe from my POV. But the Toronto Hogs detail is a little out of place, as if you're trying to squeeze too much into the sentence. Ditto 'although they'd flown by in his company' in para 4.

If you can rehouse these details, it'll flow smoother.

Evil Editor said...

I assume the job opening is with the Toronto Hogs, or a big Hogs fan, and since that will become obvious shortly anyway, I'd change "late-70's-style waiting room plastered with Toronto Hogs hockey team posters and memorabilia" to "room." It sounds like you're force-feeding us information.

As for whether someone about to have a job interview would offer a massage to a stranger... If the person conducting the interviews walks in to say, Next, and sees a massage in progress, it's going to look a little weird. Even if the job is masseuse. Like, Do I want to hire someone who's nuts?

Sarah Laurenson said...

I had fun envisioning these people all plastered with Toronto Hogs hockey team posters and memorabilia. It's the way the sentence is structured - though technically correct, it can be read differently and get a whole new meaning (which I did on first read through). That was my problem with this sentence - my reading of it.

Other than that, I was a little off from the first line in trying to figure out what happened right before this started. Not sure what I think about being plunked down in the middle of a conversation. I read on to at least find hints of what came before. A massage offer seemed like it might be interesting if I knew more of the stakes for accepting or not accepting it. Not that I needed the stakes laid out, but I wanted more grounding in the situation so I could assume the stakes.

Wes said...

Other than the highly unusual topic (but we don't want the usual, do we?) two things stood out. The detail in para two doesn't add to the story, in fact, it pulls the reader out of it. Second, the speaker's motive is not clear. Did she/he/it really offer the massage just to be kind to the "nice man" (How did she/he/it know the man was nice?)? That doesn't seem like a strong enough motive to take such a large risk during a job interview. Then agan, the MC might be a wingnut.

Great continuations....all of them.

Anonymous said...

I really disliked this scene. Everything from "locked eyes" to "trying not to smile at his surprise" to "turn around" to his "mottled flush" hit me with subtext of sexual predation. Then you reveal that it's a massage, but it's still creepy. Swap genders and maybe the creep factor will be more apparent.

(I assume it's a woman, because men don't usually think of other men as "nice men," but it would be nice to confirm this.)

Also, in general, I can't imagine a professional situation in which it would be appropriate to demand to give a stranger a massage. So your protag is creepily forward and unprofessional, and probably going to make a bad impression when they call her for her interview, which is entirely her fault.

The thing is, if she's about to be caught giving an unsolicited massage, I think that could really work as an opening. Try jumping in right at the discovery point: "By the time the interviewer came to get me, I was knuckle-deep in my competition's back muscles, and he was moaning like he'd never heard of Shiatsu before." Skip the creepy lead-in, let her try to explain it to the interviewer after the fact.

IMHO, YMMV, etc. This might very well be a case of personal preference. I hope my comments are helpful, either way.

Anonymous said...

Huh. I got a creepy, "Misery"-esque vibe off of this; somebody being "nice" in a completely inappropriate, boundary-crossing way that hints at a deeper pathology. If that's what you're going for, author, good work.

Though I would say that there are too many commas in that fourth paragraph. Perhaps that should be two sentences instead of one.

Dave Fragments said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sylvia said...

I agree with WO that you are squeezing in too much. The Hogs posters may be relevant but even so the phrasing could shift so that I'm expecting to see the room. At that moment, I was looking at a man who was looking at a receptionist so the ordering took me by surprise.

Since I'd already been waiting a good ten minutes, although they'd flown by in his company, I probably didn't have long before my interview, but I couldn't leave such a nice man without at least trying to reduce the awful tension I'd noticed in him.

In the same way - "although they'd flown by in his company" is not really necessary here and the sentence is already very long. "such a nice man" tells you already that she enjoyed his company.

Xenith said...

You seem to have an invisible narrator here, that is, I know nothing about the POV character other than they give random massages to people in waiting rooms. No clues to age, occupation, gender, species etc. OK it's early in the story but combined with the odd behaviour, it's very hard to settle into reading. If the character was easier to "see" their behaviour might be more understandable.

I think it's a problem with first person, so if you're using first, you need to start laying the character on thick from the first sentence. Not so much by putting in details about them, but by showing them as an individual. (Once I wake up, I'll find something that I think works to try and explain what I mean :)

Robin Wendell said...

I thought the piece was well written. It certainly did evoke a feeling of, Apprehension? Unease?

If suspense is your hook, I'm wondering what the bait is? Not sex. Maybe just getting to know a person that likes to do inappropriate things and wanting to know more?

It reminds me of the Ally McBeal shows where her boss liked to touch the wattles, (under the neck), of older women, and he would cop a feel when he got a chance. It made you love to hate him.

Not my cup of tea but I am sure it's someone's.

none said...

Is this a novel opening or a chapter opening? It feels a bit like either.

writtenwyrdd said...

While the writing isn't bad, I agree with the others that it's not quite there yet. And I have to borrow Dave's most common rant here: Too many words. The reason I say that is the opening isn't doing the job of 1) dropping the readers into the scene, 2) giving us an understanding of the pov character (albeit a limited one) or 3) providing guidance so we know precisely what's really important here.

Presumably it's the massage, which will either be a problem or not. And I agree it's creepy in its inappropriateness.

If you chisel out the things that are not feeding the emotion you want us to feel, and if you clarify the nature of the massage so we know a bit more (just enough to guess correctly what the point is) I think this will be a go.

Interesting choice of an opening point.

Robin B. said...

I've come back a couple of times to read your opening, Heather, and I like it.

The only thing I'd take out is the info-feed feeling of the only other person in the late-70's-style waiting room plastered with Toronto Hogs hockey team posters and memorabilia. I'd say, scrap this and insert it shortly after this scene, maybe describing why the narrator was there, or something like that.

And I do agree, the 4th para needs restructuring, as the reader has to activate thinking rather than reading brain cells here, so the flow is interrupted.

Other than those, I'm intrigued, and I'd read on.

Anonymous said...

Watch the information dumps. You can set seen but you don't have to give us the kitchen sink, but there is enough right with this I'd read on, to another information dump or two.

And FYI- when a sentence reads two ways, its not technically correct. It's technically wrong. Pick up a copy of Strunk and White to find out why.

Anonymous said...

It's difficult to get a sense of the heroine from this opening.

If the heroine the nicest person in the world, and the book is about how she's sunshine and flowers and good things come to her in return, let us see more of that come through the writing. Have her chirping and trilling her words, complimenting the decor as she describes it (either in her head or out loud), and talking about what a lovely day it is. In fact, every day's a lovely day!

If the heroine is evil, and trying to use a massage to disconcert the competition, let us see more of that in the writing, too. She smirks, she speaks seductively, she pushes up against him as she massages his shoulders. All that good (bad) stuff.

If the heroine is an average person going for a job interview, hmm. Perhaps this isn't the best scene to open with? People do odd things every day, but fiction needs to make sense.

Average people don't massage strangers in waiting rooms. If your heroine does, help us understand why.