Friday, August 04, 2006

New Beginning 41

“God damn you to hell,” Basia hissed, as she slammed the phone into its cradle. “God damn you to hell,” she muttered again as her assistant Jen passed her office door.

Startled, Jen poked her head in. “Is everything all right?”

She mustered a composed facade. “I’m fine, thanks. Could you close the door for me? I have some phone calls to make.”

“Sure,” Jen said, “I’m going to lunch in a minute. Do you want me to pick something up for you? I hear the coffee shop downstairs now offers some nice salads for lunch?”

Basia shook her head, trying to match Jen’s casualness, trying to mask any inkling of the fury she felt right then. “No, but thanks. I’ll get something later.”

“No problem. Just remember to eat something. I don’t want your mother to yell at me again,” Jen jibed as she quietly slid the door shut.

Oh, I'll eat something, you sycophantic whore, Basia thought. She was almost as tired of Jen’s watch-dogging as of her mother’s. What had possessed her to join her mother’s law firm?

Basia retrieved the Peterson motion from her assistant’s desk. If the motion wasn't filed by three o'clock, Peterson would lose twelve million dollars.

From her own desk came a yellow jar and a knife. “This is for both you controlling bitches,” she snarled, spreading mustard onto the pages.

Opening: anonymous.....Continuation: Gareth Bendall


Rei said...

"I hear the coffee shop downstairs now offers some nice salads for lunch?"

That's a curious question. Is Jen asking Basia whether Jen heard about the coffee shop's salads? If so, Jen must suspect that Basia is a telepath.

Perhaps you meant a period instead of a question mark.

Anonymous said...

Doesn't everyone have their own "sycophantic whore"? LOL!

J said...

The implied question is "do you want me to get you one?" Nothing curious about it.

Rei said...

[quote]The implied question is "do you want me to get you one?[/quote]

That was the previous question. Are you saying that she's asking the same question twice in a row? Secondly, if it were an implied question (example: "This is my reward?"), it would still be asking if Jen heard about it, not whether if she wanted it.

-c- said...

I think the add-on is telling...there is too much about lunch here, which serves as just a teaser, and a frustrating one. What is she so upset about? Get to it! Jen should pop her head in and out of the office in a short paragraph, if at all.

And this is another opening that starts right AFTER the big scene is over. I'd like to see it.

Annie said...

You don't need a question mark to imply a question. As written, that sentence is a declarative statement, not an interrogative. Therefore the use of a question mark is wrong. Replacing it with a period does not remove the implied question. Stating the lunch options at the cafe still implies the question of whether the character want them.

As for the beginning itself, it seems a bit melodramatic. Unless the person on the phone just kidnapped her child or took an entire bank full of customers hostage, I'm probably going to roll my eyes. If it IS something major like that, I'd probably keep reading. If it's just chicklit-style personal drama, I'd pass. But that probably has more to do with my reading habits than the actual writing.

The continuation made me laugh. Somehow spreading important documents with mustard seems oddly satisfying.

Anonymous said...

Basia? Cheese on rice, almighty, what is with these names lately? I'd personally like to see Helen make a come back. Helens get pissed off when they get bad news over the phone, I know they must. "Helen hated the shrill ring of the telephone. Who was on the other end, Rodney, that crumb bum? Or maybe her best friend, Tiffany, that whore! Dammit, when will the ringing end, Helen wondered, reaching for the pink princess phone." It's just a thought, maybe kick it around if you get a minute.

Anonymous said...

It seems a lot of people flagged this:

"I hear the coffee shop downstairs now offers some nice salads for lunch?”

It got me too, but mainly because I think it doesn't belong there. It appears the author is trying to put in some "real" dialog -- but as they say, much of the chatter of real life is just boring as all get out in novels.

In fact, I wonder if the entire conversation with Jen matters. What is the effect that is desired -- to tell the reader that the character works in an office? That she's important enough to have a office with a door & her own assistant? If so, this could be achieved by having her close her office door, so her assistant won't hear her calls or something like that.

But I do love the mustard.

Anonymous said...

Okay, so the ? shouldn't be there. But what about the piece? Unfortunately for me it didn't work. I found it dull and the use of Jen as a) a device to demonstrate office life and the MC's position therein, and B) as a link to the character of the Mother just that - a decive. It felt forced. That's not to say that you can't make this work. The dialogue needs looking at, or as already suggested, a big cut and removing Jen.

best of luck.


Frainstorm said...

Wow, that's pretty stern stuff to open and then we talk about lunch for the next couple of minutes. Hmm. Jen's entire reaction seems odd to me. If it's not justified soon after this, I lose faith, but I'm curious to keep reading here to find out the relationship and where Mom fits in.

Also, your characters hiss, mutter and jibe. I'd worry about that continuing throughout. How about just using "said" and let the dialogue show hiss, mutter and jibe. Once in a while, it's okay, but this is an early indication that it happens far too often.


author, author said...

Heck, I just wanted to start a novel with the sentence "God damn you to hell."

I'll fix the punctuation and maybe skip Jen...but food does come into play throughout the first chapter (she ends up skipping lunch because of her job and then has an encounter with a strange man as she grabs a quick dinner at said coffee shop).

Points well taken. Thanks!

author, author said...

And, honest, this is the only "weird" character name in the story. Others are Tara, Marissa, Caitlin...Daniel, Ethan. LOL!

Bernita said...

I like the opening "God damn you to hell...", though Jen does seem a little unnecessary.
In fact, if Jen has to show up, I'd like her to have to duck a paperweight or something.

Anonymous said...

Basia can't hiss the words "God damn you to hell" because there's not a single sibilant in that phrase.

magz said...

A totally sociably acceptable Generic Romance beginning! (Probably very saleable, yanno?)

A BRILLIANT continuence; Kudos! (From Another Warped Mind)

wd verf; uupwful magz: yupyup yup.. but in a GOOD way, hehe

Anonymous said...

Overall impression: Not too bad, although my impression (not even counting the continuation) is that the story is about her and her relationship with her mother. Either that or it's a Weight Watcher's type story, and THAT's why the importance of mentioning the salad. Hopefully something happens rather quickly to give the story more definition.

I also was thrown by the salad sentence. (in case author, author is keeping tally)

Other things that jumped out at me. Use of 'lunch' twice, close together. Ditto to the word 'something.' Drop the phrase 'right then.' Obviously she's upset 'right then,' and not in the future or the distant past.

I can handle 'muttered,' because it shows that her tone of voice changed drastically from the first utterance. However, hissed implied (to me) speaking through the teeth, with tense lips. I'd like to see that done with anger for the term used. (which is full of hard consonants implying an active mouth.) 'Jibed' should be replaced. It stands out as unusal, and I have never in my life actually heard someone 'jibe.' What would that look like? How would it sound?

Great ending. Love the mustard!

Anonymous said...

Maybe Jen ends every sentnece with a question mark? We have someone in our office who does that? It really irritates me?

McKoala said...

This reads fine, I'm just not gripped yet. The salad bar conversation really slows things down. Given that I don't know the characters, I don't care about their local salad bar yet either.

xiqay said...

LOL at the continuation. Oh my. Where's my jar of mustard? (I work at a law office for my day job!)

Others have pointed out most of what I would comment on (hissed, jibed, too much boring lunch dialogue).

But one point I would also make--Why would Basia's mother yell at Jen about Basia's eating habits? While there might be some backstory there to explain it, this "comment" by Jen did not sound real to me. It sounded like it was dropped in to tell something that we don't need to know yet.

It detracted from the opening's credibility, in my opinion. An adult in an office doesn't take responsibility for whether another adult in the office eats or doesn't. Odd? Immature? Out of context of some larger relationship (wife, e.g.), this seemed so improbable I wouldn't keep reading.

If this opening were refocused so that Basia continues to be the center of the story's attention, and her immediate "God damn you to hell" moment is where we're headed, then I'd be interested. But when you dilute that moment with hints/comments about a whole bunch of other issues (eating problems, bossy mothers, caretaking co-workers), then I, with my single-track mind, lose interest.


Good luck.

We Are Siamese if You Please said...

I have to say, though I've no doubt loads of people would disagree with me, that I would close the book after the first sentence because of the profanity and taking the Lord's name in vain. I am religious, but not a fanatic and I do own books with profanity and even some with the Lord's name in vain. But it's far enough in that I care about the story and characters enough to forgive, or at least tolerate the profanity.

If that were the first line and I was deciding if I should buy it or not, I wouldn't. I don't want that in my home and near my kids.

I know, I know--freedom of speach, conservative, blah, blah, blah.

The reality is there are a lot of people who would feel the same. I just think if you are trying to sell books, alienating a large potential audience with offensive profanity in the first line isn't wise. Just MHO.

tim said...

da mi basia mille, deinde centum.

whitemouse said...

...alienating a large potential audience with offensive profanity in the first line isn't wise.

But how large a segment of the population is it, really? Regardless of the quality of their character, all of my (roughly eighteen-year-old) students swear. I find it crass, but profanity seems to be socially acceptable now.

I noticed the emotion implied by the profanity that started this novel beginning, rather than the profanity itself. I suspect most readers won't bat an eye.

author, author said...

So...I totally re-wrote this opening after all the helpful comments from the minions. No food, no Jen...more Would it be in bad form for me to post the re-write here looking for more feedback?

Evil Editor said...

Go right ahead.

author, author said...

Basia's Opening...Resartus (Thanks so much, EE!!)

“God damn you to hell,” Basia muttered as she walked away from her ex-husband, careful to avoid any semblance of stomping or flouncing away. The hem of her black satin gown rippled like a flag in a stiff wind as she strode toward the cash bar. He couldn’t have picked a more inappropriate time to tell her. God damn you to hell, Daniel. “Johnny Walker Black. Neat.” She’d missed lunch, and the plated dinner wouldn’t be served for at least another hour. A drink wasn’t a good idea. Two would be ideal, but she dare not risk appearing out of control. The governor was expected, and she’d already exchanged the usual pleasantries with the mayor. Her reputation was built on her unflappable temperament; she was the proverbial “Ice Queen” of Intellectual Property Law, a field less prone to courtroom histrionics than criminal law but no less filled with emotional clients who’ve poured their lifeblood into their work. She couldn’t afford to slip out of character.

Saralee said...

Basia Resartus:

Where's the mustard?

Seriously, I liked the office setting but not the overemphasis on lunch.

However, if drink she must, my guess is that her request for Johnnie Walker would have more of an impact if it came after the whole discussion about how imprudent it would be for her to drink.

So: She curses her ex under her breath as she makes her way to the cash bar. Her dress ripples, etc. It's not a good idea for her to drink right now. Not on an empty stomach. Not with the Mayor in attendance and the Senator likely to show up any minute. She has her reputation to consider: Ice Princess of the Intellectual Property World.
She glares at the bartender.
"Johnny Walker Black. Neat."

ello said...

Well, I guess it worked because it got me interested in knowing where she was and what kind of clients she had. However, "Ice Queen of Intellectual Property Law" cracked me up, and I don't think you intended that. Perhaps because I happen to be a lawyer that happens to practice intellectual property law, this sounded very funny to me. Since you imply that she is a litigator, why not say that instead of the ice queen thing - which is cliche anyway. Also, the intellectual property practice includes patent, trademark, trade secrets (think corporate espionage) and copyright. But it seems like your character is talking about copyright infringement claims only, which is only a small subsect of IP law. She would really be queen of copyright and not IP, then, right?

author, author said...

Well, she's actually Director of Intellectual Property Law at her firm so she covers the gamut of IP. She generally only handles her firm's biggest clients and assigns associates for the rest. (They don't tend to handle a lot of trade secret cases since major technical companies tend to maintain their own IP divisions.) I did actually mean for the "ice queen" reference to be tongue-in-cheek. But as usual, if it has to be explained...

Thanks for your perspective, ello!

bonniers said...

To me, this opening has exactly the same weakness as the first one: it starts with a compelling opening line, then dithers off into trivia. In the first one it was salads. Now we have dress and drinks. In neither case do we get to witness the drama.

Frainstorm said...

Love the revision SaraLee made, moving her drink order to come after she's given all the reason why she shouldn't place a drink order. That heightens whatever it was her ex has said to her, which we'll presumably learn in due time.

Other than that, I'm gonna keep reading.

I'll will add, however, that although I'm not a religious person, I would see fit to change the opening as well.

There is wisdom in starting with a polarizing opening so if you want to do that, go right ahead. But if not, if you're worried about pissing off half the agents who get this, I'd change it.

And I don't mean it would piss them off because of their own way of thinking, no lecture please. I mean, they may see it as someone else described, that you'll alienate so many readers they don't want to go that direction.

Good luck!

Dave said...

As soon as you say:
"Her reputation was built on her unflappable temperament; she was the proverbial “Ice Queen” of Intellectual Property Law, a field less prone to courtroom histrionics than criminal law but no less filled with emotional clients who’ve poured their lifeblood into their work"

by implication she can't say "damn you to hell" as an opening statement . Ice queen implies that this is a woman completely under control at all times. Shocking words are not going to excape her lips unless, unless, unless, She's been rocked to her foundations by some revelation

May I suggest that you open with his single line of the bad news? Since they are divorced, I guessing something like "I'm gettin remarried to {governer?}" or "I'm filing for custody of the kids" or "I'm getting a sex change" - but whatever it is it has to be more dramatic than "damn you to hell" and it will sound more real than "Damn"...

And it has to be bad enough (in her mind) to make her drink, uncharacteristically. Now the reader gets to watch her reactions to the news and her meeting with the governer.

Having that internal drama now plays against the normalcy of the party.

Dave said...

As for the discussion about profanity.

An author should be aware that profanity, certain words and certain descriptions will restrict their audience.

Beyond that, it's the author's decision and reader's decision.

Nut said...

author, author: I did like the meak secretary. The lunch thing made me think, she had an eating disorder, which may work, it that's what you intended. I'd read both versions, they both have the 'shebang'.

Of course, knowing that I'm nuts, that may not be a good thing, but... Anyhow, I thing you got style.

Mama Rose said...

Re: hissing. I had a conversation with Laura Kinsale, bestselling romance author about hissing. She said she gets annoyed when people pull out the "rule" that you can only hiss if there's a sibilant. I agreed with her because the sound in question is similar to a stage whisper, which doesn't require a sibilant. I thought her take on that idea was interesting and thought I'd share her unconventional viewpoint. :)


mark said...

Right--what Ello said. What strikes me about "Ice Queen of Intellectual Property Law" is that it doesn't seem like a moniker someone could ever actually acquire. For one thing, if that is said about you at all, it's only said behind your back. And if people are saying it behind her back, wouldn't it be "ice queen of IP," in any case? I don't think I've ever met an attorney who doesn't usually call it IP, "intellectual property law" being so awkward. And non-lawyers wouldn't think to call her the ice queen of intellectual property law. So we have a statement that no one would ever actually utter.

Suggestion: might she think of herself using something like those ridiculous titles that local bar journals bestow on well-connected lawyers? Something along the lines of "Intellectual Property All-Star Attorney of 2005." Just an idea.

--M., also a lawyer, not in IP, and definitely not on any bar association power-lawyer lists.

mark said...

I must say, though, that I do aspire to be the Ice Queen of Insurance Defense. I've mislaid my dress and wig, however, so that title will probably have to go to someone more fabulous.