Friday, April 30, 2021

New Beginning 1096

Alexis guided the cursor over her favorite words. After ten hours in her cubicle, the phrase “Sign Out” was better than any other two words in the English language including “free shipping” and “new episodes”. It was even better than her favorite three word phrase: “number two combo”. 

She clicked the button. Instead of turning grey, it remained green. Alarmed, Alexis clicked the mouse again and again. No please God not now, not this! 

Too late. Cheerful music blared in her ears. Alexis knew it would be an insult to war veterans and trauma survivors everywhere to suggest that the upbeat tone ‘triggered’ her, but the anxiety that overcame her was real. That zippy ditty meant that someone, somewhere, was angry and about to take it out on her. She would have to absorb that anger, make it a part of her, reshape it, paste a smile on it, and hand it back. 

“Thank you for contacting Smiletronics,” she answered. “My name’s Alexis, could I get your name please?” 

“June 24th, 2011,” the woman on the phone began.

"A date that will live in infamy?" Alexis guessed.

"The day a SWAT team broke down my front door, killed my four children and my husband, and then realized it was the house across the street they were supposed to be raiding. I happened to be at the grocery store."

"On the bright side," Alexis said, "I assume you only had to attend one funeral for all five victims. I hate going to funerals, don't you? So depressing. I remember when my great grandmother died, she was 98 and bedridden, and I had to go out and buy a black dress, which is not my best color, and which I've never worn again because on the way home from the funeral I stopped at Wendy's for the number two combo and spilled grease on the front. My best color is turquoise, which goes well with my light brown hair. Although I could have colored my hair to match the black dress, but then I'd have had to buy new shoes. Any--"


Opening: Amanda Barrett.....Continuation: Evil Editor


Evil Editor said...

Sounds the the opening to an episode of Black Mirror.

I would replace
"Alarmed, Alexis clicked the mouse again and again. No please God not now, not this!
Too late."

with "and"

I'd also get rid of the "triggered" sentence.

Based on what little I know about the company, Smiletronics seems like a lousy name. It should be Silver Lining.

Also, it seems weird that Alexis is in front of a computer, but the woman is on a phone. That's the situation when I call the cable company but I'm not sure this won't bother a few readers. It seems like Smiletronics could get by with just a bank of phones.

Moist people would answer "What's your name" with a [fake?] name or start by saying "Never mind my name" or "My name isn't important."

Anonymous said...

It seems overwrought, or overstated. As authors, we want to have high stakes, show emotions at high pitch, open with a bang -- but forcing it makes it ring false.

As you've depicted her, Alexis is tired and bored and maybe hungry. We've all been there, about to knock off a long shift when one last item pops into the queue and it threatens to be a doozy. Usually it's a sinking feeling, or exasperation, or a mild piss-off -- not alarms, triggers, anxiety, blaring (does the headphone music actually "blare" into her ears?). If it's a customer service job, you've got to suppress your groan, paste the smile back on your face and drag your Cheery, Pleasant persona out of its hidey-hole and exert it one last time for the day. It's a annoying, but it's not that big a deal.

In short, I'd turn down the volume. An intense feeling of "Oh God, another one," well described, is sufficient for a good hook.

And that continuation was priceless.

Mandakinz said...

Such an honor to have a continuation by the Evil Editor himself!

I like the suggestion about removing the "alarmed" sentence and connecting the before and after sentences with "and". I doubt it would have ever occured to me to make that change.

Thanks for the feedback Anon. I've gotten the overwrought / purple prose feedback a few times on here, but never from a "real-life" beta reader. It could be a style thing, but it could also be that an anonymous person on the internet is able to give feedback that a personal friend/ writer's group member wouldn't be comfortable saying. When I send this to my next batch of beta readers, I'm going to ask them flat-out. Maybe if I say it first, others will be more comfortable agreeing.

It's so nice of you to take the time to read a stranger's snippets so carefully and articulate such thoughtful feedback. I sincerely appreciate it.

Anonymous said...

I find it very strange that she can't log out *before* the call comes in if she's not trying to log out early. Is the system prescient and somehow knew the call was coming?

fwiw, my first impression of this was that it's probably starting in the wrong place, but that's probably because I read more stories about what people do than about their internal lives, and I'm not finding her excessive desire to leave work interesting

hope this helps

loved the continuation, EE