Wednesday, September 06, 2006

New Beginning 103

Raven Blake walked out of the airport terminal, into a bright Phoenix day and a new life.

She paused, looking around the frenzied commotion of the passenger loading zone and then she saw her buddy Griff. He was waiting at the curb, nonchalantly leaning against his beat-up old work van, watching the world go by.

Griff saw her, smiled and pushed his lanky form away from the van. “Hi Raven,” he said, taking her bag.“Hi Griff.” She paused looking past him and up at the intensely blue sky. “What a gorgeous day.”

He grinned. “Glad you like it, I ordered it just for you.”

She grinned back. “Really, you can do that?”

“Yeah…just don’t blame August on me,” he said, opening the passenger door.

She laughed, climbed in the van and waited for him to go around and slide into the driver’s seat. He checked the rearview mirror and slowly pulled from the curb.

Skillfully manipulating the wheel, Griff slipped the van in front of a yellow city cab that was signalling to drop off a passenger.

Raven leant back in her seat and looked out the window. They were just passing the sign for the airport exit. A few more minutes and they would be on the open road.

Griff reached out with his left hand and twisted the power/volume dial on the radio. Music started to play. The Carpenters: "We've only just begun."

"This is a nice van," Raven said, running her finger along the faux-cherry wood trim.

"Only ten thousand miles." Griff grinned, proudly. "And the dealer threw in the satellite radio for free."

Raven streched forward, massaged her shin, and slipped off her shoe. Manolo Blahnik stillettoes. She held the shoe tightly in her left hand and rammed the heel into Griff's right eye.

Anything to relieve the fucking tedium.

Continuation: ril


Anonymous said...

Raven? Are you serious? Quoth the raven, "Nevermore!"

~Nancy said...

The continuation is an absolute riot! Good show!

Author, I hate to say this, but this didn't grab me. There doesn't seem to be anything happening here.

Is any sort of confrontation going to happen soon? Is there any way you can hint at that? Maybe something happens to the van...Maybe you can start the story there instead of having her coming out of the airport.

My 2 cents, of course.

Also, I think you should watch your punctuation, esp. your commas ("Hi Raven" should be "Hi, Raven" for instance).

And, I always thought when another person speaks that it should be in a separate paragraph.

Good luck!


Anonymous said...

A hook has to be really, really good to keep me reading when a writer doesn't punctuate or format dialogue correctly.

Anonymous said...

Brilliant continuation. Author, take note!

Cheryl Mills said...

Thanks, continuation author. I needed that laugh (although you took a long f*cking time getting there).

Original author: I suggest you cram all this into one sentence (Raven climbed into Griff's van outside the Phoenix airport...)and then get on with it. It's boring. Hi Raven--Hi Griff--Nice weather, ain't it? Bleh.

bonniers said...

I'm not that picky about format and punctuation for dialogue. I mean, Cold Mountain, Cormac McCarthy, I can handle that.

But the content is...well, there isn't any. No tension, no information, no background. I can't tell if she's awkward with this man, or comfortable. She might have had the same conversation with a cab driver.

I don't necessarily insist on plunging into the heart of the story, but I like to feel that something is going to happen, and this opening doesn't give me any confidence that this writer is going to be able to carry the story if it does happen.


Dave said...

This reminds me of the old commercial "where's the beef."

If the text would evoke a mood I could live with no idea of what the book was headed for.

If Griff were the love of her life or if he was her partner in a criminal activity, or her boss in the CIA, or the latest serial killer waiting to (you get the idea).

Anonymous said...

Maybe something like this?

Damaged Hearts

He pushed the play button again. She appeared on the screen, smiling from her make-believe kitchen, skillfully dicing leeks while explaining the intricacies of preparing vichyssoise. She held the classic 10-inch chef’s knife perfectly balanced in her hand, her strokes, smooth, rapid and precise.
Reclining in his chair, his hand dropped to grip and caress, while her voice flowed over him. He watched, captivated by her beauty and her ability to talk, smile and teach while wielding that amazing blade with such proficiency.
This time would be different. He was certain, she would be the one to stay as long as he wanted, maybe forever. And if not forever, there was always the blade, an equally tantalizing prospect.
Whatever decision she made, when the time came she’d be his.


Beth said...

There's nothing happening here. No problem introduced or even hinted at. Bland action, bland dialogue. In short, no story.

Author: find the place where something changes from the ordinary, and that's where you start.

pjd said...

Since everyone has already commented on the fact that nothing happens, I'll get to another thing that struck me:

The visual image I got while reading this was like those TV commercials where someone is moving in regular motion but everything else around him is a blur.

She walks, pauses, looks, sees, pauses again, grins. He waits, leans, watches, sees, smiles, pushes. Meanwhile they are surrounded by "frenzied commotion" and a world going by.

This in part is what gives your opening a static, nothing-happening feel. Well, that and the fact that nothing happens. Anyway, the impression it gives is that while the world is frenzied and active and going by, the two characters you're going to spend 300 pages telling us about are waiting, pausing, leaning, walking, and watching. Not a lot of promise for action in the next 299 pages.

xiqay said...

LOL at the continuum. It nails the problem with the opening.

Author, dialogue that includes hi, hi, what a gorgeous day-is blah. If I began my "new life" with such banality I'd run back to the old one, just for excitement.

Names like Raven and Griff sound like empty calories and empty heads.

Nothing here helps me know who either Raven or Griff are (they could be old, young, kind, mean, employed, criminals, hunchbacks, clowns. They could be in zoot suits or burkhas. They could be anything, but because of that, they are nothing. And I'm not interested.

There's no sensory detail (except a blue sky).

This is bland and uninteresting. I don't think that's what you're going for.

It is grammatical, as far as I can tell, but that's just not enough.

Good luck.

Anonymous said...

Have you been following me? There are two friends in my book that have those names. We-eird.

Um, to be honest, I felt bored. There was nothing to grab me, nothing to hook me. I'm not saying there has to be tension or action to get my attention; the writing can be less wordy, the story can move along a little faster.

Brenda Bradshaw said...

Oh thank the heavens for that continuation. PERFECT!

Anonymous said...

Thanks everyone. I'm acually thinking about using the Manolo Blahnik stillettoes thing.


Rei said...

To be fair: this is 150 words. That's nothing. For all we know, the hook is at 200, 300, 500, or whatever. If you write decently and have a reasonable query, I'd expect the agent to get that far.

For all we know, the van is about to explode.

Beth said...

rei said--To be fair: this is 150 words. That's nothing. For all we know, the hook is at 200, 300, 500, or whatever.

Doesn't matter. There should still be some sense of tension, conflict, mystery--something to distract us and keep us happy and interested until the van explodes.

Dan Lewis said...

Here we go again with the tension.

Here's a thought: try to imagine this as a scene in a movie. Raven walks out, looks, sees her friend and goes over, says Hi, friend tells a joke, opens the door. Cut. They're already driving on the highway into the city (or wherever). We're talking about 5, 10 seconds of film at the most. But the way you're using your words (the drawn-out descriptions of action, the minutiae of "Hi, how are you" dialogue, all the adverbs) suggest to me the reader that a crucial scene is happening. But then nothing interesting happens.

If nothing is happening, the way you write needs to reflect that:

Raven Blake walked out of the airport terminal, into a bright Phoenix day and a new life.

Her buddy Griff was waiting in the afternoon sun. He threw Raven's bag into the back seat of his rusted van, then put "Highway to Hell" on the stereo. Raven buckled in and sighed.

"Well? Where to?" he asked, cutting off a BMW as he pulled into traffic.

65 words and out. On the other hand, here's a rewrite placing more emphasis on the scene, like the original:

Raven Blake walked out of the airport terminal, into a bright Phoenix day and a new life. After the overcast skies of Seattle, she welcomed the simplicity of unmediated light and heat.

Her buddy Griff waited by his old Toyota van, parked in the Load/Unload Only lane. A few smoked-out cigarette stubs lay at his feet.

Raven handed him her bag. "Nice day."

Griff grinned. "I ordered it just for you. Archie McPhee's." He threw her suitcase on the middle seat, then held the front door for her.

AC/DC exploded out of the stereo as the ancient engine puttered to life. Griff shouted, "Well? Where to?"

I don't think this alternative writing is that great. I don't know what the plot is, so I can't hint at anything to come (except for the dark, turbulent, backstory in Seattle). In fact, for that reason, my rewrite is most likely completely wrong for your story. So much depends upon making the opening about the story somehow. I didn't say that quite right, but a seed of the story needs to be in the opening.

I cheated a little by using many details not appearing in the opening, but I didn't see any way around that. Another problem with my rewrite is that Raven herself is less characterized than her buddy.

On the other hand, the extraneous material is mostly chucked, there's a little characterization, maybe it's a little funnier, and at about 100 words, the opening gets out of the airport a little faster.

Like xiqay wrote, this opening is grammatical, but there's no movement. I suggest a look at the Slushkiller, a Making Light thread on the kinds of work that come through the slushpile, and the 14-point scale of rejection and acceptance, which starts, "Herewith, the rough breakdown of manuscript characteristics, from most to least obvious rejections..." Trust me, it will open your eyes wide.

azwriterval said...

Thanks Dan, for your very informative and constructive comments.


braun said...

Just a note on Dan's otherwise excellent suggestions, any mention of AC/DC would make me shut the book then and there.