Wednesday, August 27, 2014

New Beginning 1030

It promised to be a beautiful day on Dirtyrock Farm. The sun rose at dawn, as was its wont, and would stayed up until just before dusk. But not Billie Jane.

She awoke just before noon and in no sunny disposition. Her tongue was swollen and dry. Her breath stank and she smelled like a sweat-hog. She stumbled into the bathroom wishing to shower herself down the drain.

“Billie, how was the senior prom?” Her cheerful mom called from the kitchen below Billie's bedroom.

She turned on the shower to drown out her mother's morning joy. While disrobing, she tried to remember last night. She remembered dancing with Eddie Fitzmore, her date, and a couple of other boys. She also remembered drinking with Eddie in his dad's 150 pickup. They drank Southern Comfort mixed with Gordon's Gin and Diet Dr. Pepper--Billie thought Eddie obsessed over his weight which was insufficient to make the varsity six-man football squad.

That's it. She couldn't remember what happened next or how she got home. Billie sat on the edge of the tub and tried. Nothing came to her. Maybe someone put a date-rape drug in her drink. Did she had sex with Eddie? Or with anyone? Maybe she'd been raped. She wondered if urgent care could test for date-rape drugs.

* * *

The sun came bright through the pickup window, but somehow didn't reach Eddie Fitzmore's white knuckles gripping the wheel. Eddie just sat there, unmoving, like what he'd been for the past six hours, staring right ahead, eyes watering from the burning in his crotch. He tried not to think about the two broken bodies in the flatbed, and what had happened to them. And worse, to him.

So that's what the old woman had meant, when she looked at Billie Jane and touched his arm and hissed in his ear. It wasn't nothing to do with her cankles at all. And buying diet didn't help nothin. "Mark my words, boy, whatever you do, don't be giving Dr. Pepper to that there were-hog."

Opening: Mister Furkles.....Continuation: Anonymous


Evil Editor said...

Unchosen continuations:

Who else could she turn to for help?

* * *

T-boned, rear-ended, or full-on frontal? Call Huxley and Delmonico now for an immediate consultation. No win, no fee. Don't let an accident in an automobile ruin your life. Huxley and Delmonico, 555-7895.


Surveying herself in the mirror as her mum warbled a ditty from the lounge room below the bathroom, everything came back to Billie in a flash, just like the lightning that tended to flash when it stormed.

Eddie’s obsessive training had paid off last night when the zombies attacked, but Billie, drunk on redneck cocktails and incapacitated by Rohypnol, had not run fast enough to escape what was once the varsity football team.

“Bil-lie!” her manic mum called out from the dining room below the master bedroom. “Get down here for lunch, your aunt and uncle and cousins will be here soon!”

Billie shambled down the stairs, no longer heeding the stench of raw flesh on her breath. It promised to be a beautiful feast on Dirtyrock Farm.


Billie examined the clothes she'd just disrobed. A tuxedo shirt, football pants, cleats, and a tulle skirt. Well that was a relief. She hadn't been raped. It was all the things she'd worn to the prom, not a stain or tear anywhere.


She looked up at herself in the mirror: miserable; pathetic, lank hair; a little too plump to be a cheer-leader and -- oh, God, what the--? -- what was making her neck so red?


Evil Editor said...

P1: ...would stayed up?

The sun rising at dawn and staying up till just before dusk are lame examples of a beautiful day. I pretty much assume them.

"But not Billie Jane" isn't too clear. Does it mean she will not stay up until just before dusk?

P4: Not sure why she would think a kid drinking diet soda obsesses over his insufficient weight. He'd be drinking a milkshake if he was so worried about weighing too little.

P5: "Did she had sex..."

Apparently Billie is under the impression that while under the influence of a date-rape drug, she could have made it back to her parents' home and into her upstairs bedroom. Could she?

Chicory said...

The flowery narrative voice doesn't seem to match the setting or Billie Jane's voice. Sorry if that sounds harsh, but it kind of threw me out of the story.

IMHO said...

I don't get any kind of feeling for the main character. Is she truly worried she was drugged & raped? As written it sounds like she's, you know, just wondering, no big deal.

Or is the author trying to set up that she's missing a chunk of time, and mentions drugs/rape only to address what most people would think of first in such a situation?

khazarkhum said...

Great! Now we can add were-hogs to our lycanthrope family, along with the were-dingoes and everything else.

Anonymous said...

She drank alcohol, mixed with more alcohol, mixed with caffeine, and she thinks she must have been drugged because she blacked out? I don't know about other women, but I wouldn't assume I was date raped just because I had a killer hangover.

The first paragraph is purple prose. "But not Billie Jane" presumably refers to the fact that the sun rose at dawn, while Billie rose late. You state this plainly after the flowery version, so why not simply start with "Billie Jane awoke just before noon..."?

Although I would honestly suggest another opening altogether. Main character wakes up with a foggy memory and a headache--welcome to 90% of first chapters ever written. Try another approach that would make readers curious to discover what happened to her. You want people to think, "Ooh, this is gonna be a great story!" Not, "Ugh, not another one of these."

Dave Fragments said...

This is too much and too familiar as others have pointed out.

Cutting by half and editing would save it but Billie Jane is not a sympathetic character. She's waking from a prom night drunk (or so it seems to say) and wondering how bad she was last night.

That makes her almost TSTL for an 18 year old and that is the kiss of death in a character.

Now obviously you didn't intend that.

So let's think about what might help the opening.
I will invent an alien abduction and impregnation. That's the topic of a current TV show.
She wakes with a hangover and a feeling of foreboding that something other than a human anatomy touched her.

Or maybe, she remembers that they crashed and she hit the windshield and wandered back to the house hours late and fell in bed.

Those are two rather outrageous scenarios that you might use to replace that florid description of the sun rising and setting like it always does. OR replace that overly detail line about Southern Comfort, Gin, diet Dr Pepper, or how much we do not care about her boyfriend being less muscular than he wants to be. Do you mean to say on prom night with a date in a pickup truck and booze he's not got an erection but he is having angst over making the football team? Seriously?

You can start this way if you give the reader hints at what might be. This type of opening must be a look into the future of the character presenting something to the reader that draws them into the story.

Think about the very raucous meeting that opens THE BONFIRE OF THE VANITIES or the mystical and rather creepy opening of REBECCA or the wonderful and hope-filled first paragraph of SOPHIE'S CHOICE.

A drunk girl with the sun rising and needing a shower doesn't work. IF IT WERE a detective, having had a date with the Lady in Red, waking in Neo-Noir then the reader has reason to stay. Give the reader Brother Fairchild dying or reporters bussing around a fallen body. But don't give the mundane and scornful.

Readers want some mystery about their leading characters. Billy Jean is not a mystery.

Unknown said...

Also, this part:

“Billie, how was the senior prom?”

is an example of stuffing extra information into dialogue that doesn't really belong, for the sake of clueing in the reader. ("As you know, Bob...")

The mom would know it was her daughter's senior prom without actually saying it. More natural would be "Billie, how was prom?" or even just "Hey honey, have fun last night?"

Be careful with these niggly details. On top of the other issues pointed out, this kind of mini-info dumping makes the dialogue sound terribly stilted.

Good luck!

Mister Furkles said...

Thanks guys.

This opening has been in the back of the digital drawer for several months because I didn't like. And couldn't understand why. It's a slow month for EE and the minions so, I thought you might like something different.

It was to be the opening of a humorous mystery of three friends solving a serial murder case before heading off to college.

They have two special "powers" that help them better the efforts of the sheriff: the three are inept and incompetent—basically, they are silly self-absorbed twits.

Chicory: The narrative needs a lot of work. I am torn between having a frivolous narrative or a serious one which is wrong about nearly everything.

Minions: The concern about possible rape was too harsh for this story and it wasn't obvious until you offered your reactions. It is gone and Silvia will just have to wait her turn to pop up. But she is an annoying resilient girl who sticks her nose into everybody else's business, so there's no keeping her off for long.

“The Sun rose promptly at dawn.” is not purple prose. It's stupid prose. The damned thing's been doing it for either (a) four billion years or (b) some time in the 12th century when the word 'dawn' joined the English language. I'd hoped—naively-- that it would act like that road sign “Warning – rough road ahead”. Only in this case “Warning – silliness ahead.” So, that doesn't work.

Okay, Dave, here's the mystery about Billie Jane: how can such a foolish girl get into college, let alone solve a serial murder case.

K: I'll move the senior prom to the narrative and her mom will not be cheerful this morning but angry.

And I'll try three or four alternative openings before selecting one.

Thanks, EE, minions.

SB said...

I think the idea of a serious narrative that's wrong about everything is pretty interesting. And I think such an unreliable narrator seems like it would fit better tonally with a murder plot. It'd be tricky to pull off without confusing the reader, of course.

Dave Fragments said...

how can such a foolish girl get into college, let alone solve a serial murder case.

You have to ask? Think Marilyn Monroe or (and I hate to say this) Lindsay Lohan. And a whole host of female characters that die in slasher movies. Or the Valley Girls.

Mister Furkles said...

But Dave, she must solve somebody else's murder not be murdered. Well, she has 'help' from her friends, Silvia and Eddie. They are just as feckless.

I think I'll start with the discovery of the most recent body. Then the prom can come after that.

AlaskaRavenclaw said...

Neither Marilyn Monroe nor Lindsay Lohan attended college.

Furkles, you say basically, they are silly self-absorbed twits. Most readers won't want to read about self-absorbed twits. We want to sympathize with a protagonist, not feel superior to her.

Whenever we write the Other, whether it's the opposite sex, another race or cultural group, people with a different sexual orientation, people with a handicapping condition we don't have, we have to be conscious of our outsider's view of that group of people. This is true even-- no, especially-- if we're trying to write humor.

That means discarding our stereotypes, which tend to be based on the visible tip of the cultural iceberg, and looking at what lies beneath.

The opposite sex is a particular challenge because it's nearly impossible to write without writing the opposite sex. Unless you're Tolkien, you can't avoid writing that Other.

For women, being conscious of the complexity of that Other means creating male characters who do more than watch sports and fondle their guns while awaiting meals that cook themselves served on dishes that wash themselves. For men, it means writing women who do more than pass out in their prom dresses and wonder if they've been date-raped, prior to going to college even though they're too ditzy.

I think that taking out the date-rape beginning isn't going to be enough to address this issue.

SB said...

Gotta agree with AR on this one. I wouldn't want to read a story written by a man about a woman ditzily bumbling through crime-solving, for both of the reasons she pointed out.

(BTW, I love Tolkien, but yeah, it would have been nice if there'd been more women in his cast. Although I've got to give him props for Eowyn.)

Mister Furkles said...


No drinking before posting after this. As for The Other, look up Thomas Tryon. As for humor--there is no such thing a politically correct humor and there never will be.

All humor depends on feckless characters.

SB said...

"All humor depends on feckless characters."

No, it really doesn't. Surely you know people in real life who are funny without also being idiots.

AlaskaRavenclaw said...

SB, yes, in real life and in literature too. In fact, it's easier to think of wise, thoughtful characters who are funny than ditzy ones.

Furkles, I have no desire to "look up Thomas Tryon". We're not having a debate here. I'm just telling you why your story isn't working for me. You can take it or leave it; sounds like you'll do the latter. If you consider making characters three-dimensional "political correctness", and believe that humor can't co-exist with seeing others as complex human beings, there's not much for us to discuss. I hesitated to comment because I figured you'd have little interest in my remarks. But it needed saying anyway.

Good luck with your writing.