Wednesday, February 08, 2012

New Beginning 922

The bottle came back around and Frankie took it, held it in her hands like a newborn, and this time she was sure.

It isn’t just me, she thought. We’ve all changed.

But none of them looked different, and except for the thing with the bottle none of them acted any different. Maybe they were quieter than usual, but that could be attributed to the weather. An ugly storm was setting up in the night sky like a band before a gig, tuning instruments of thunder and wind. The night was cool and smelled of approaching rain.

Harpo had built a fire in an overturned hubcap, feeding it rags and leaves until it matured enough to consume segments of a dead tree branch. He sat on a wobbly office chair toward the rear of the concrete room that had once been a factory or warehouse, Frankie wasn’t sure which. There was something wrong with his left knee that prevented him bending it, so he had improvised a pedestal of upended cinder blocks to keep the hubcap up where he could reach it. To Frankie’s eyes, the structure looked like a sad mock-up of the Olympic pyre.

Mikael had found a tarpaulin and dragged it inside. He'd laid it out, weighted down with jagged concrete shards, to protect them from the damp of the floor. And now he sat and stared at the bottle.

Lorne had set snares before the sun drifted down to the horizon. He'd caught two rabbits and prepared a stew. He said nothing, just glared at Frankie.

Frankie tried to pass the bottle to Harpo, but Harpo shook his head. "One thing," he said. "One thing is all you had to do. The simplest task of us all. Bring the fucking corkscrew."

Opening: JRMosher.....Continuation: Anon.


Evil Editor said...

Unchosen continuations:

On second glance, it really might have been the Olympic pyre.

Harpo handed the cigar he might have lit the pyre with back to Groucho.

Jim Thorpe, Olga Korbut, and some gay guy from California who dived really well emerged from the twining flames.

Frankie passed the bottle to Olga.

"Vodka!" said Olga. "Most inspirational of spirits."

Harpo said nothing.


"Are you going to play , or not?" demanded one of the guys across the fire.

Frankie knew the time was right, the time was now, the bottle had sealed it for her. Dropping her jeans to the floor, she proceeded to give Harpo a gold-medal winning lapdance.


Evil Editor said...

I was expecting Frankie to reach a conclusion about how they'd changed; instead you switch to the weather.

The point of using the simile "like a band before a gig" should be to get the point across without mentioning the thunder and wind.

Maybe it's because I'm slouching, but I can get my hand pretty close to the floor while sitting in my office chair. Plus, if the fire's on a pedestal, what with heat rising, there'd be less warmth provided to the people. That's why when you see movies with cowboys sitting around a campfire, the campfire isn't up on a pedestal.

AlaskaRavenclaw said...

Well done. I'm hooked. I'd almost certainly keep reading, unless I was in the kind of mood where the name "Harpo" annoyed the hell out of me.

Consider changing Harpo. There's only one Harpo. It's a bit like naming someone Mickey Mouse.

none said...

I think EE has something like this in mind:

I glanced over my shoulder to see Mrs Fern bearing down on us like a battleship with flags flying and guns rolled out.

Only better. (from my WIP)

150 said...

I'd keep reading!

Dave Fragments said...

You can use the weather by making it shorter as a metaphor for their situation.

Maybe this:
"Maybe they were quieter than usual, thanks to the off-beat accompaniment of discordant thunder and lightning. Harpo struggled to start the campfire in a hubcap shielded by cinder blocks and his stiff knee."

That's far fewer words and (I hope) just as evocative.

Anonymous said...

Good start. I agree on the Harpo name. I was expecting Groucho and Cheeko to arrive shortly.

Unknown said...

I have NO idea what is going on? I'm sorry, just being honest. Between the story and the comments, I feel like I'm one blunt short of a lightbulb moment.

Chicory said...

I was a little confused. The MC knew what `the thing with the bottle' was and how everyone was changed, but I felt like I didn't have enough context to get what she was feeling. Sorry. The descriptions were alright, I just felt like I'd walked into the middle of something. If I just came across this in a bookstore, I'd probably be checking the title page to make sure it wasn't the second book in a series.

Dave Fragments said...

Two things:
"Groucho and Cheeko" the Marx Brother's name was "Chico."

"shielded by cinder blocks and his stiff knee."
Should have been "shielded by cinder blocks and coping with his stiff knee."

Jo-Ann said...

@Stacey, just google Marx Brothers, and the references to Harpo (and Groucho and Chico) will become clearer (they've got nothing to do with communism either). I hadn't actually heard of them until a few years ago myself, and I'm in my 40's, so don't feel too bad. Then again, my husband's younger than me and he's loved them for years. They're over-rated IMO. (ducks in anticipation of responses).

@ author - The opening was fine, it has a gritty, post apocalypse feeling to it. Just dont ruin it with zombies, please.
My quibble is the line "...except for the thing with the bottle...", because I'm not sure what that's referreing to. The again, maybe I'm having a no-lightbulb moment myself.

Rashad Pharaon said...

Sensing the coming rain, the frogs and crickets joined the band. Well, now a symphonic orchestra. Its instruments fully tuned.

"I'm glad," said Frankie, looking around at the room, then at the fire.

Harpo looked up.

"Dying together like this," she said. "Of carbon monoxide."

"One thing," said Lorne. "Considering. You could have brought a bigger bottle than this hotel sampler."

Anonymous said...

The first four sentences tell me there is change but no, there is no change. So which is it?

Doesn't tickle my wanna read on bone.

I think you need to rethink those four sentences. Get rid of the ambiguous change/no change thing. If they changed, how, if not get on to (start with)something that hooks me that has nothing to do with the change/no change downloaded/dumped on to the reader.

If you can get there faster with a provocative lead in I might be interested.

JRMosher said...

Author here. Thanks for the comments, especially (of course) those who said they'd keep reading. Some specific responses:

@EE: Frankie will reach a conclusion about the change, but not in the first 200 words. At the start it's more of a feeling; she knows something within her feels off, but isn't sure what. When she notices the thing with the bottle, which will be defined very shortly in this first chapter, she realizes that it isn't just her but also her friends who are somehow different. The thing with the bottle is tiny in and of itself, but it's the first clue to something very big which is the heart of the book's plot.

Nobody seems to like the name Harpo. I may change it, or not. I have someone very specific in mind as I write this character, and his nickname is Harpo. It's kind of a shout-out to a friend. Won't be much of a distraction since he'll be dead by the end of the first chapter, but if it's too distracting maybe it'll get changed.

@EE: Yes, you can lean over and reach the ground, but if your leg was as messed up as Harpo's then it'd be pretty painful to lean over like that for the amount of time it takes to build and tend a fire. Also, the fire's more for light than warmth but I can make that more clear.

@Chicory: The MC is also confused, at first, so the beginning feels appropriate to me. And yes, you walked into the middle of something. That's the advice I always hear -- start in the middle of the action, as late in the scene as possible, so that's what I'm shooting for.

@Jo-Ann: It's actually present day, though I understand the comment re: post-apocalypse. And while I enjoy a good zombie yarn, myself, there are none in this book, I promise.

@Anon: There is a change; I never said there wasn't. She's just not sure yet what exactly it is that has changed, and she's trying to puzzle it out in her head.

Again, thanks for the comments, everyone. This is a project I'm really excited about and hopefully one day it'll get posted as one of the "success stories" here. With proper thanks to EE and the minions, of course.

Anonymous said...

I have someone very specific in mind as I write this character, and his nickname is Harpo.

Won't be much of a distraction since he'll be dead by the end of the first chapter...

The character or your friend??

JRMosher said...

@Anon - The friend, of course. This provides excellent research material for writing from a killer's prespective, getting the "flavor" of a homicide scene correct, and if I play my cards properly, a chance to meet a real-life detective who might let me interview him about forensic techniques, etc. Plus, I won't have to deal with his disappointment over not having his nickname in the book.