Wednesday, August 09, 2006

New Beginning 57


Celia nodded, bit her lower lip and suppressed the tears that she knew would come later. She never imagined it would have been that difficult, that painful, although most of the pain had come from her heart, not her now empty uterus.

Marge came back into the room and gave Celia the water. She drank, hoping it would fill the void space in her body.“Now, you’ll need to take it easy for a few days, and you might feel some of the same things you felt when you had the boys… baby blues, night sweats, your breasts might hurt. And make sure to keep pads close at hand. You’ll probably bleed quite a bit.”

Celia knew Marge from many years of visits to Dr. Porter’s office and she was thankful that there was no contempt in her voice. Maybe Marge understood. Maybe someday Celia would understand.

It just didn't seem right having Dr. Porter perform the abortion, not when it was his child. And that nurse practitioner couldn't be trusted not to spread it all over town, and then Celia's husband would find out. No it had to be Marge.

Celia was just grateful that Marge had that bottle of rum stashed in her janitor's cart. It made the thought of the untrained woman performing the procedure so much easier to bear.


Continuation: Kathy Collins

34 comments:

Sherri said...

The subject matter of this beginning doesn't lend itself to humor. That's just wrong.

Excellent beginning. Heartwrenching. I can't find one thing to change. So, what happens next?

Anonymous said...

Sherri, I hear you, but I also don't like telling people what they can and can't joke about. I'm one of the those people (you'd probably call me callous) who can joke about anything, especially the bad things that happen to me.

I thought this was a good beginning. It seemed real and I think I felt the pain and emptiness. I was a little confused about whether or not Dr. Porter and Marge were the same person. Maybe the writer abruptly switched to "Marge" to show a personal bond, but I wasn't sure.

HawkOwl said...

The writing isn't bad. It's grammatical and the dialogue is plausible.

However.

First, "she drank, hoping it would fill the void space in her body" makes no sense. Does anyone actually feel like water is gonna replace a terminated pregnancy? I'd bet not.

And second, I find it very manipulative. We're all expected to get all sad and misty-eyed at the thought of a woman losing (or disposing of) a baby; the author is just using a canned sentiment to get a rise out of us.

Not liking it at all.

minion 828 said...

1. Anyone who submits their beginning to this site expects humor, and if it's okay with the author, the rest of us should grin (or groan) and bear it.

2. Most of these new beginnings are not humor so much as twists. That the janitor performed the procedure is unexpected. Some may find it amusing, others shocking.

3. If this offends, why didn't the recent posts that had cannibals waiting to fatten up an unborn baby, a severed head being thrown into a crock pot, serial killers, etc.?

4. For all we know, Celia is upset because she just gave birth to the daughter of Satan.

If each reader can say, Remove those posts that bother me, there won't be anything left.

Anonymous said...

I have to agree with hawkowl. It's a fairly competent opening, but I do feel that it is manipulative. For me, it's little things like "suppressed the tears she knew would come later." "...suppressed tears" is enough, I think. Likewise, "most of the pain had come from her heart, not her now empty uterus" strikes me as a little bit inauthentic. I don't doubt a woman would feel this way, but I doubt she'd articulate it, even mentally, in this way so immediately. Perhaps revising the first paragraph with a stronger sense of physical sensations would help make it seem more real, less distant.

pjd said...

You might want a term other than "baby blues." I thought Marge was referring to someone's eyes, and it just didn't make sense until I'd read it 3 or 4 times. You don't want the reader (editor) tripping over little things like that.

Why is Celia nodding in the first sentence if Marge isn't in the room? Is someone else there? Is she nodding to herself?

Generally good opening, I think. Not my type of book in particular, but it seems competently written.

To me, the extension was very funny specifically because the topic does not lend itself to humor. I know people who have had abortions for various reasons, and it's simply awful for them. Having the over-the-top situation in the extension caught me by surprise.

Annie said...

I assumed Marge was a nurse at the doctor's office.

I thought the beginning was well written and I was intrigued. Whether I'd read more would probably depend on how much I knew of the book from the reviews, blurb, etc. This is a pretty touchy subject and it's not something I really want just anyone's take on. I'd probably either love or hate this book, depending on where it goes from here.

Anonymous said...

Well said, 828. -JTC

jfk said...

I think this is a strong beginning, but the subject matter is making me queasy. Just personal preference, obviously. Provided the story focused on the emotional pain rather than the details of the physical pain, I'd have no problems. (Which isn't to say that should be the focus; it's just what I'd prefer to see.) In any event, I'd read on to find out.

If I may make a couple of nitpicky points (because I'm just in a pedantic mood tonight. Sorry):

In the second sentence of the first paragraph, I noticed the repetition of 'pain' (well, 'painful' and 'pain'). I'm not sure whether it was done for effect, and sure, the simplest word is usually the best, but here, it jarred me.

She drank, hoping it would fill the void space in her body.

(Really, really nitpicky) Isn't the term 'void space' redundant? Why not simply 'void' (or 'space', although I think void is stronger)?

FWIW, I thought the first sentence of the last paragraph implied that Marge and Dr Porter were different people.

Nicely done!

Frainstorm said...

You confused me at hello.

Who is Celia nodding to? I thought someone had just given her a speech or some sympathy, but it turns out there's no one there. Unless there's a ghost there, but that's a whole different story.

I don't think I'm the audience here, and I wouldn't continue reading for that reason. Not a knock on anything, just wasn't for me.

The other thing that strikes me as needing to be changed is the "void space" phrasing. I'm viewing it as a typo, like you've changed it back and forth a number of times and the last time didn't fix it right. (empty space? empty void?)

John

Anonymous said...

"Void space" is actually something else altogether. In psychics, this refers to a vacuum. Talk about an interesting opening...

I think "void" would work best here.

bonniers said...

I'd probably keep reading this book if I had the whole thing in front of me. The opening does feel a little overdone or manipulative, but I like the way it immediately plunges us into Celia's emotional conundrum.

I assumed Marge was Dr. Porter's nurse.

braun said...

Is this Lifetime? Where's the dang remote?

It seems like a competent opening, but I would have no interest in reading further.

I also think its hard to come in on an intense emotional moment with characters the reader doesn't even know.

Nut said...

I could see, that Celia is unhappy about abortion. That's real, so I'd read on. Depending on what follows.

The nurse's dialogue: isn't she supposed to inform Marge how much bleeding is normal? About two soaked pads per hour, otherwise go to the emergency room, or am I wrong...

I didn't know, that you get 'baby blues' after abortion. I thought, that would be a different type of depression, but I might just be an imbessile.

Reviews: don't mean a thing to me. I used to look at the review, and see "couldn't put the book down" stuff. Then, I'd read the book. Put it down, after a couple of pages. Even if you respect the reviewer, tastes differ. All I want from the back of the book is what it is generally about. You know, genre, etc.

Of course, I'd read any book by Sha'el or Billy E!

And yes, the banana punch hasn't quiet worn off, but I swear it wasn't alchoholic... unless the bananas went back, or something.

Kanani said...

Am I to understand that she had this without anesthesia and that it was a late term abortion?

Anyway, about the writing. You've exposed what the situation is in the first paragraph without ever using the word abortion. It's not the typical approach by a beginning writer, rather you've shown a some thoughtfulness on how to impart this information.

Just an observation. The way it sounds now is that this wasn't Celia's choice. She doesn't understand why she had an abortion. She didn't think that the abortion would hurt that much. I only hope that the development of your character has Celia gains more control of her choices later on.

I can understand where people are coming from with the manipulation. Perhaps you need to take care that you don't slide off into sentimentality in your writing as you go along.

Nice job. Thanks for tossing this out there. Good luck with the rewrite.

Jane said...

For me, "baby blues" is the best part of the dialogue. It's the most colloquial, and helps the interchange feel more real, more like something a nurse would say.

I gotta agree with the comments about "void space," though. Take out "space" and it won't read awkwardly anymore, though it still may seem a touch contrived. Like hawkowl said, no one would really hope for their sense of loss to be ameliorated by water. Perhaps, "imagining that if she drank long enough, and deep enough, it might fill the void..." That would make it a fantasy, not a genuine hope.

Good luck with this, author!

Bernita said...

Inclined to agree, again, with Hawkowl.

The term "post-natal depression" or "post-natal blues" is more likely to be used instead of the confusing "baby blues" - especially in a clinical atmosphere which one assumes this is.

xtxsni said...

I interpreted it that she had a miscarriage and D&C, perhaps because Celia already had children and the nurse mentioned post-partum depression.

The continuation struck me as crass.

Annie said...

nut said: Reviews: don't mean a thing to me. I used to look at the review, and see "couldn't put the book down" stuff. Then, I'd read the book. Put it down, after a couple of pages. Even if you respect the reviewer, tastes differ. All I want from the back of the book is what it is generally about. You know, genre, etc.

Since I was the one who made the comment about reviews, I just wanted to clarify. I lend no credence to reader reviews that say things like "couldn't put it down". I can determine that for myself. I was refering to in-depth reviews that examine how well researched a book is and what sort of bias an author might have. With a book that features abortion, I would want to know whether the author was a member of the Pro-life lobby and whether this book was thinly disguised anti-abortion propoganda. If so, I can't imagine that I would be interested in reading it. That's not to say it would be poorly written, but it just wouldn't be for me. Better, in this case, that I do a little research before I read it and get myself all worked up about it.

Anonymous said...

"The continuation struck me as crass."

Now that's funny!

Bernita said...

"post-partum" ...that's the phrase.
Sorry, been too long.

Anonymous said...

I am the dreaded author of the continuation. Why did I make it funny?

Um...that's kind of the point.

Besides which it's my way of saying: "Hey we're thrust into a very emotional situation here and we don't know who either of these two people are. We don't know the situation." It makes it very hard to feel anything for the character.

And before you ask, yes I've known people who had abortions and yes, I'm a woman.

Evil Editor said...

There were at least a half-dozen continuations submitted, and all were funny. I don't see anything crass, pro or anti-abortion, or disgusting. The reader is convinced Marge is a nurse, and the twist is that she turns out to be the janitor. It would work just as well if the procedure were a colonoscopy. It would work even better if the procedure were a heart transplant or something else we wouldn't dream of letting a janitor perform on us. It may not be wildly hilarious, but it follows the pattern of the 56 New Beginnings before it.

Chumplet said...

I would suggest leaving out the cold, clinical details and have the nurse/abortionist's advice delivered in the following manner:

Marge briskly gave Celia instructions to make herself comfortable when she got home. The usual list - get some rest, expect some after-effects like bleeding and discomfort. Celia barely listened; the advice was almost identical to the instructions Marge had given her when Celia had taken the twins home. This time, it didn't matter. Her baby was gone.

Just a suggestion.

xiqay said...

I like this opening. I don't think it's over-written or manipulative. I think it gives us a lot of information about the main character. She's just had an abortion, her choice, but not an easy choice. One she may have difficulty living with.

It also hints at the atmosphere in which she lives. She's grateful not to be castigated for it. Perhaps she in an intolerant or religious-fundamentalist community.

I don't know if I'll agree with the politics of where the story goes, but I think the opening is very good, setting the scene, the character, the emotional tone.

I usually say add sensory detail. No more is needed here. We've got enough to take us right into the scene. And as others pointed out--all without saying abortion.

I agree with the nitpicks on the "hoping" and "void space" problem sentence. I didn't have any problem with baby blues for post-partum depression (might be an age thing).

I think the last two sentences are ambiguous and give the idea that Celia didn't choose the abortion. If she did, then figure out what you really want to say. If she didn't, I need a clearer expression than this.

I'd keep reading.

As for the continuation, I think EE is right on target. It plays off the lack of clarity about who Marge is. It might not be laugh-out-loud funny, but it definitely takes the story into unexpected territory! Amusing with a touch of horror.

Nut said...

annie: Go ahead, pick a book, any book. There will always be people who feel differently about it. I am NOT saying that you are wrong with trusting reviews. I'm saying that I don't. I scan the book, and read it, if I feel like it. You know the worst part? My choice isn't based on the person's spelling/sentence structure/passive voice vs. active. Just how I feel when I read it.

If this sounds like a rant, sorry y'all. Now, I'm off to my tree. My ogre makes a mean cup of banana leaf tea...

nut said...

P.S. I just realized, that I've earned a smack upside the head, or nutshell, as it might be, for my 'feeling' comment.

So. Put that hammer down.Yes, I do realize we 'paint with words', spelling must be perfect, active voice is more effective, etc. As a writer. As a reader, I look for a book to move me.

Yes, the bits and pieces here do move me. Most to hysterical laughter. Some (very few) to nausea. This particular piece had an emotional tug. So, yeah, I might like the book. Not that it means much, but there it is.

Sherri said...

I said, "The subject matter of this beginning doesn't lend itself to humor. That's just wrong."

I wasn't making any judgements on the author of the continuation. Obviously, you submit to EE, you get humor. I didn't mean to imply he shouldn't have included it, I just voiced my reaction.

When am I going to learn what that anonymous button is for? ;)

Anonymous said...

Everyone is entitled to their own reaction and is entitled to share it with others. Personally, I was kind of surprised the beginning was submitted knowing what kind of continuation it would get.

As for me, I just click anonymous because I'm too damn lazy to type in my username and password. :)

Now to say something useful, I think that perhaps this scene would be recieved better if it came a little ways into the book. If the reader had some time to get to know the character before this. Of course, if you're going for shock value you've got it. On the other hand if you get the reader hooked on your character before you drop a bombshell like this, they may just keep reading when they wouldn't have otherwise.

PS: Is it really "word" verification if there are no vowels? Just wondering.

Manic Mom said...

Outting myself here. I didn't even know EE posted my New Beginning!

I didn't mind the humorous continuation at all. And it was great to get everybody's perspective on the scene. I agree the void space thing is redundant; I wrote this piece like three years ago, and didn't edit it before I submitted it.

FWIW, Celia's husband has forced her to get the abortion.

What do you think about that? And Marge is the nurse to Dr. Porter.

Thanks for everybody's thoughts on this, and I thought the continuation was amusing! FYI--it's fiction; I've never had an experience like that.

Manic Mom said...

SHit, I just reread this, and I have no idea why the hell Celia would be nodding to no one.

Manic Mom said...

EE--just went back to my WIP and noticed the beginning line(s) is actually this:

Celia lifted her body up carefully, slowly, anchoring her elbows onto the table first. Stars floated before her and she eased back down.
“Take it slow hon,” Marge advised. “Would you like some water?”
Celia nodded, bit her lower lip and suppressed the tears that she knew would come later. She never imagined it would have been that difficult, that painful, although most of the pain had come from her heart, not her now empty uterus...


So, that is what the confusion over Celia nodding was all about, not that it matters now!

Evil Editor said...

A check of my mail reveals that's what I received. My attempt to copy it must have resulted in cutting off the beginning. Amazingly, there were no comments that it seemed to start in the middle. If she hadn't nodded, no one would have noticed anything missing. Now you have to decide if it reads better with the short version, less the "nodded," or in the original version. If you wish I'll change the original post to what you submitted, and delete the comments that mention the nodding (though those may have other points you want to keep).

enya z said...

Dearest Nut:

Stop using, so many commas. It's wrong to, break up your sentences that way.

a well-meaning new minion...