Thursday, August 03, 2006

New Beginning 39

Elspeth stared at the phone in her hand, face blank with shock. She felt numb inside, but the numbness was rapidly giving way to a searing rush of hurt and betrayal. Jerking the receiver back to her ear, she was met with the buzz of the dialtone. She set the phone slowly down on her desk, and tried to make sense of the words echoing in her head.

I'm sorry. Please don't hate us. We never meant for this to happen. We didn't want to hurt you.

Doug and Jennifer. Her fiancĂ© and her best friend. It had been Doug on the phone, calling to tell her that he was canceling the wedding because he and Jennifer had developed feelings for each other that neither could deny. They had—he said—tried to ignore them for her sake, but in the end they felt it was better to acknowledge them and move forward, and hope she didn't blame them for something out of their control. Not blame them? She didn't know what to think.

At least Doug had called to explain, which showed some concern for her feelings. Jennifer had been over just the night before, listening to Elspeth's giddy wedding plans, and never breathed a word. Why didn't she tell me?

She and Jennifer had been best friends since grade school, beginning with the shy offer of half a turkey sandwich at lunchtime. Before that, Elspeth had been alone, so alone after the death of her mother and father in that tragic car accident. Why did her father have to drink that night? Her parents had been so full of life, so in love. When they’d met at their senior prom, they’d known they would be married.

Their parents hadn’t approved. Elspeth’s grandparents had been archaeologists who didn’t hold with their daughter marrying the son of accountants. Her grandparents had been paired together on a dig, excavating the skeleton of a brachiosaurus when they’d met. If only they’d never met! If only the dinosaurs had never roamed the earth…

Elspeth thought some more and stood very still, because there was no way she was going to give in and resort to action.

Opening: Jenny Clark


Anonymous said...

The continuation makes a good point about the need for some action to hurry up and occur, but I do like the original beginning.

The writer started at the moment of transition, the point at which the protagonist's life changes course, and I think s/he did a good job of capturing the ringing disbelief Elspeth would have to feel at that moment. I agree that something should happen now, but I do feel pretty engaged with the character already, and would keep reading.

-c- said...

I don't see the benefit of starting after the crucial scene, and then having to backtrack and tell what just happened. Why would you open with the actual phone call? That's where the action is. That seems to be where the story starts.

Macuquinas d' Oro said...

So far so good.
Yes, we need Elspeth to DO something at this point, and something we don't expect,but the story is well launched.
I'm turning the page to see what Elspeth does.

Anonymous said...

This opening is all tell and no show. And I agree with -c- that the author is avoiding the real conflict by not slapping that ugly phone call on the page.

The author might try it just for fun and see how he/she feels about it.


HawkOwl said...

I wouldn't keep reading, but that's just me - I have no use for a love story. If you're into them, this is one of the most competent openings we've seen so far. If you'd throw in some fuck-me shoes to make it less "poor pitiful me," I might even read the second page.

Anonymous said...

Elspeth, yuch! Please change that name. Also, did he really show some sympathy for her feelings by telling her by phone he was having an affair with her best friend? Pleeeeaaaaaase. -JTC

Beth said...

First sentence is out of POV. She can't see her own face.

Whoever suggested that the opening should show the actual phone call was right. It's usually best to start at a moment of action, not reaction. The conversation, written in real time, without backstory explanations, could make riveting reading; by relegating it to paragraphs of backstory, it's deadly dull.

Doug is a jerk and she's better off without him. I hope she realizes that quickly.

Anonymous said...

I agree that opening with the phone call would make for a stronger beginning. If you're really intent on opening with the aftermath of the phone call, then I suggest ditching most of the exposition, since the wordiness of it doesn't suggest the mindset of a woman in shock. As soon as you use the sentence, "Her fiance and her best friend," the reader is going to know *exactly* what the situation is, which means you can skim over the rest and jump right into the meat of the story. For something like this, less setup works better.

Anonymous said...

Elspeth? Elspeth and Doug? Elspeth's best friend Jennifer? Elspeth had to know what was coming, what with being the only Elspeth in Indiana. She's too good for the rust belt, dammit! Go, Elspeth, go out into the world and make a name for yourself (maybe something other than Elspeth?), perhaps a queen needs a lady in waiting!

Anonymous said...

I loved the addition. You can feel the blackness of the comedy as it creeps towards your feet leaving you dreaming of film noir; or at least moving from Harlequin Romance to Leonard Elmore.

Go Leonard

McKoala said...

The continuation says it all.

Author said...

Thanks to all for the informative comments!

I see two main common themes:

Her name. Yes, it's unusual. She's actually not thrilled with it herself, but it serves a later purpose in the story (she ends up in Scotland where is *is* more common, and it helps her fit in).

The phone call. I rewrote the scene to include [most of] the phone conversation after that seemed to be the dominant request of the minions. With EE's permission, should I post the revision (as another author did) for additional feedback?

And a genre clarification. I don't have a working title yet, and I didn't inform EE of the genre because it's hard to pin down. "Romantic historical fiction" comes close (with a modern MC, so there's some time-travel in there to further muck up the genre classification), though I might accept "historical romance" in a pinch. *grin*

Evil Editor said...

Post away. Not sure how many people check older posts, but in time something should show up.

Author said...

Thanks, EE!

It may not get noticed, but hey - worth a shot.

NB 39 Redux

"Elspeth, I'm sorry."

With those three words, the numbness that had gripped her for the first part of the conversation shattered and a searing rush of hurt and betrayal took over.

"You're SORRY? You called to tell me that you are canceling our wedding because you've decided to start dating my best friend and the best you can come up with is 'you're sorry'?" Elspeth gripped the phone receiver tighter in her hand, knuckles turning white with the effort not to throw it across the room. "Well, I'll agree with you for the moment that you're sorry. How long has this been going on behind my back?"

Silence. Then, "A couple of weeks. But we've had feelings for each other for longer. We both just tried to ignore them. We figured it was a crush, last-minute wedding jitters on my part, whatever. We hoped they would go away. Look, please don't hate us. We never meant for this to happen. We didn't want to hurt you."

"Well, it's too late for that now, Doug." Elspeth sat down heavily in her desk chair, sweeping the hair away from her face with her free hand. "Do I even want to know how this happened?"

Frainstorm said...

Well, I hate to say this, but I think your earlier opening worked better. At least the very beginning.

I read through the last time, but had no new comments to add.

This time, I just don't believe the conversation could happen this way. Her character seems like she would be devastated by the news. I found it more believable the first time when she felt numb. I took it that she just set the phone down and let Doug ramble on or eventually hang up.

This time, her conversation seems to belie the event that just occurred.

Especially difficult for me was the 2nd sentence of the 2nd paragraph, where Elspeth essentially summarizes everything Doug must have told her. Uh-uh. She'd be screaming obscentiies, I would think.

I should add, however, that I'm out of genre with my critique here so base on it what you'd like.

Good luck.

beeyacht said...

I agree, this doesn't work better. I don't know what comes next, but I'd believe if she said, "We're not doing this over the phone. I'm coming over." Then she hangs up, grabs her gun, clips the silencer on it and jumps in her car.

bonniers said...

I like the second one much better. It's not perfect,but at least she's doing something and pulling us right into the scene. I would keep reading.

Nut said...

I do like the name.

Elspeth's feelings are clear. She's obviously hurt (searing pain, etc) and trying to control her self (knuckles turning white with the effort not to throw it across the room). Looks good to me. Both versions.

Just tell me, that she isn't going back in time, to get the jerk back.