Thursday, October 22, 2009

New Beginning 696

It took me a while to figure out what set her apart from the other women at the contradance. There were at least a dozen other new people there that night. She was beautiful, of course, but there were others with long dark hair and wide dark eyes, a girl’s freshness and a woman’s grace. I envied them. I didn’t envy her.

She looked at all her partners like a lover, I thought—though I couldn’t be sure, never having had one myself-- like someone who knew every line of their faces, every gesture of their hands, and hungered, not for their approval, their desire, but for them, the way they were in themselves. It wasn’t just the men, either. She took my hand in a ladies’ chain, and I thought she could have sculpted my hand from memory after that—calluses, split nail, long blunt-ended fingers.

I sat out the next dance and watched her. She smiled radiantly whenever she met anyone’s eyes, but while she waited off the end of the set she looked like a little girl left alone at night, straining to hear the grown-ups downstairs, telling herself desperately that she is not afraid of the dark.

In the next dance, I discerned from the way she moved her hips that she was a divorced mother of two. And more: she waved her hands in the air like someone who had never been satisfied with her husband because he spent all day working.

It was all for the best. I could tell from the fire in her eyes that the rough touch of a man could never tame her.

I worked up the courage to talk to her. The distance from her chin to her clavicle revealed that she was a Scorpio who liked long walks on the beach. The roundness of her knees implied that she enjoyed watching movies and, though she was no fan of the original Police Academy, she closely followed the careers of Steve Guttenberg and Kim Cattrall.

I introduced myself. "Hi, I'm Amber."

She replied in a deep, masculine voice, "I'm Gary." It was only then that I noticed the Adam's apple . . .

Opening: Joanna.....Continuation: Matthew


_*rachel*_ said...

I like this, especially the description.

Since the narrator is female, mightn't you say "never having BEEN one myself?"

Dave Fragments said...

This took me a long time to read adn that is unusual. I usually read very fast.

I think that the second sentence hurts the narrative. In the next sentence you say "but there were others" and that is enough. the reader doesn't care if there were a dozen new people. the reader cares about two people. So drop "There were at least a dozen other new people there that night."

The second paragraph is complex enough without the addition of
"after that—calluses, split nail, long blunt-ended fingers."
Think about this paragraph. It brings in the woman, her love life, the narrator's virginity and the way the woman deals with people. Leave all that as the lingering image. Don't spoil it by adding the details about your narrator's hands. That may be an important detail but it isn't for right now. The revelations is about the woman and not yet about the narrator.

There is a tension in all writing that involves when and how much to reveal at one time. Since I don't know what you are writing in the rest of the chapter, I can't tell you when to add the calluses, split nail, long blunt-ended fingers to tell the reader that your narrator is not the sophisticated person she admires or is discussing. But in this opening, that phrase hurts the second paragraph. Let the images of how the mysterious lady pays attention to those she interacts with flow directly into the third paragraph without the narrator's hands intruding.

Think of this as the stunning lady appears on the staircase and makes a grand entrance, descends, dances and in the observations, we see her insecurities, her barely visible faults. It isn't time yet to reveal that your narrator is merely ordinary (Except for her powers of observation).

The continuation is so much fun. My Father had a Halloween party story about being surprised who that woman was...

Mame said...

The third paragraph pulled me out. It was too jarring after reading about someone who appears so confident. I think you can fix this by dropping a couple hints of insecurity in the first two paragraphs, or making the third less strong.

But I liked the writing.

Anonymous said...

Some nits: Is contra dance really one word? Also the first sentence of the second para trips me up--she looked at all her partners like a lover---like a lover looks or like they were lovers? In the later case, lover should be plural, in the former, I think you need a would or does or some other verb. Then you say it wasn't just the men either--so she was looking at the women "like a lover" too? That's fine, if you mean it, but I think you just mean that she looks carefully at everyone.

I actually like the image at the end of para 3 best--lose the desperately, it's implied and overkill to say it--but I don't think this contradicts the other image. You never implied she was happy, just that she was beautiful and seemed to pay attention to people--often the sensitive people are well, sensitive. Which means they can be hurt. So I think that's fine.

Continuation was hilarious.

Joanna said...

Thanks all.

Rachel, I'll think on it. Yes, since she's a woman "having BEEN one" would seem more logical. However, "I never HAD a lover" and "I never WAS a lover" state the same fact but shade it rather differently. And having looked with love wouldn't necessarily help you recognize lovers' looks on others' faces, would it?

Dave, yes. I'll cut the 2nd sentence and save the hands for later--they'll matter later but there's no need to put them in ahead of time.

Aimee, I meant to give the impression that Anon seems to have gotten; I'll consider whether I can make it less confusing.

Anonyomous--I've seen contradance as one word but now that I check it out that seems to be incorrect usage; thanks. I mean that she looks as a lover would look, and will try to think of an unawkward way to indicate this.

Matthew--that was impressive.

pacatrue said...

You basically had me until the girl straining to hear downstairs paragraph. Seemed too much. I'd keep reading.

Anonymous said...

I loved this and wouldn't change a thing.

Chelsea Pitcher said...

I liked this a lot. I have to disagree about the "had a lover/been a lover" thing. "Been a lover" implies purposeful passivity, which irks me. I think "had a lover" is perfect.

I loved the last paragraph about the little girl left alone at night, but it's possible it could be shortened and remain as effective.

I would read on.