Tuesday, October 17, 2006

New Beginning 142


After it happened, and before they took her away, Mum sat shaking and crying at the kitchen table, the sleeve of her pink striped night-shirt stained with blood from where she had nicked her own hand with the knife.

Felicity sat opposite, trying not to look at the blood, trying not to think about Thomas. She kept her eyes on Dad, who stood behind Mum, rubbing his hands up and down the sides of his dressing gown. Mum's head was bowed and she sobbed, "She told me to do it, she told me to do it!" Dad made soothing noises and reached out his hands towards Mum's shoulders, then pulled them back as if afraid and resumed the rub, rub, rubbing of his dressing gown.

It was true; I had told her to do it. I never liked that stupid cat, Thomas. And things were rather tight, what with Dad having lost his job and practically everything else except for that ridiculous dressing gown.

Mum and I had smiled as Dad and Felicity raved about the stew. It was only after Felicity found the whiskers in her bowl that things got ugly.


Opening: McKoala.....Continuation: Kate Thornton

21 comments:

HawkOwl said...

At first I misread and thought "after they took him away" and thought Mom had her man arrested. I'm projecting again. :)

Generally I don't like the "after something happened" type of opening or the "I'm not telling you what happened" type of opening, but this one works for me, mostly, because if something very traumatic just happened, no one wants to talk about it. Drowning Ruth is a good example of that, done well.

So, the part that lost me is where Mom is going "she told me to do it." She's talking about "it." That somewhat disrupts the way "it" looms over the scene. However, maybe that's for the best. I'd have to see the rest to know.

I'd definitely be asking for more.

Dave said...

I don't know why you just don't say "As the policemen took Mother away she kept repeating - She told me do it, She told me do it. The blood on her hands and nightgown argued against her statements."

It's only 31 words and just as dramatic an opening.

The scene you describe is a scene of transition from murder (I'm guessing) to subsequent conviction or acquital. It tells me nothing about any of the characters or the setting or the plot. Since this is a murder mystery (Because if the Mother actually did it, it's going to be a boring novelization of "I Want to Live") there has to be a murder and an innocent suspect.

Also what is that rubbing of his gown? A lady MacBeth wannabe? I hope it isn't a foreshadow the father did it in the first 150 words.

I just don't see what you are trying to do. Sorry about this post. Even I think it's a little harsh.

-ril said...

Welcome back Kate - nice return! Love it!

HawkOwl said...

I'm hoping Dave is totally wrong about the plot. I'm picturing it more as some kind of mental illness / dysfunctional family story.

anonyme said...

Mum's head was bowed and she sobbed, "She told me to do it, she told me to do it!"

I liked everything else but that line was a bit melodramatic. The rest was atmospheric and tense - that line was umm, perhaps overwritten would be the best way of putting it.

And I don't agree with Dave at all - his opening would not pull me into the book the way yours did - it sounds like the kind of thing I could read in the newspaper - no voice, no atmosphere, nothing. Sorry, Dave.

Anonymous said...

It confused me. But, that's not saying a lot. That dude rubbing the hell out of that gown annoyed the crap out of me. -JTC

Bernita said...

I think it's good.

Nut said...

Kitty stew... yum. I'm sick of baboon jerky!

Rei said...

The scene you describe is a scene of transition from murder (I'm guessing) to subsequent conviction or acquital. It tells me nothing about any of the characters or the setting or the plot. Since this is a murder mystery (Because if the Mother actually did it, it's going to be a boring novelization of "I Want to Live") there has to be a murder and an innocent suspect.

You have this novel pegged completely wrong -- the problem with judging a book by it's cover. I've seen this over on the Crapometer. The story actually has less to do with Felicity's schizophrenic mother than Felicity's own reality in the aftermath of her mother's disappearence.

judy said...

I have to disagree with some comments here. Not every book starts out with a perfect description of a character or a total reveal of the plot. Golly, you have 200-300 pages to develop all that.

Heck, a good part of the time these beginnings are interesting enough to me to read on, even if they're not perfect. Sometimes I like the tone. Sometimes it's the writing. Sometimes it's the question it poses.

I get tired of watching writers get picked apart on little nits. Today it's annoying me a lot. It's like having a critique group where everyone has an opinion and very little of it will make the story (as a whole) better. As for the writing, maybe.

Are we commenting on writing? Plot? Story? Character? How the heck can you really do that in 150 words? You can't.

Ok, rant of the day over. I'll go pick my nose now.

writtenwyrdd said...

This opening works for me, too. I didn't care for the repetition regarding the hands rubbign the dressing gown, either, but it was a nervous gesture and did convey the emotion.

The continuation--cat whiskers in the stew!--was great.

pacatrue said...

The opening definitely drew me in, so overall I think it's great. A couple things to think about. 1) I had the novel pegged exactly like Dave. The mother has murdered someone. From comments, that appears to be wrong, and yet multiple readers are getting that. Something needs to be clarified. 2) The use of the word dressing gown at all. Do men still wear dressing gowns? The only way I can get him in a dressing gown is to go back several decades. If that was the case, I hope there will be clues soon about the era to help orient me. I realize this may be my ignorance here, but I'm a decently educated fellow and you will want to be careful about drawing average readers out too much in the opening.

All that said, a very suspenseful opening and I would have kept reading, so kudos.

HawkOwl said...

I don't think there is anything wrong with readers guessing the plot wrong based on the first 150 words. For one thing, it wouldn't happen, because the actual paying readers would already know the plot based on the back copy, and for another, so what if you read 150 or even 300 and then it turns out it's not what you guessed? You go "imagine that" and move on. Big deal.

Re. Judy's comment, the question EE asked when he started the "New Beginnings" phenomenon is "would you read more of this?" and it does seem like a lot of people are answering something like "how many nits can dance on the head of a pin?" instead. On the other hand, the number of people who comment on Beginnings with some canned advice from some generic writing coach's e-book seems to have decreased lately, so I think overall it's getting more interesting to read the comments. Plus you never know when someone might say "Cthulu" or tell a black-and-white joke.

McKoala said...

Thank you for the comments - I'll look into all of them. Nope, not a murder mystery (thanks Rei!). You find out pretty fast what has happened - just not in the first 150 words. In the next 250. Hope OK. It's interesting to see these assumptions, though, as wrong assumptions play a big part in the novel.

Dressing gown - it's UK, so not a robe. This is a plaid woollen dressing gown kind of a guy. They're far too frequent in the UK if you ask me.

Love the continuation!

PicAxe said...

Am I the only one who liked the old guy rubbing his dressing gown? That was a strong image for me, telling me something ba-a-d had happened and Mr. Dressing Gown, man of the house, is so feckless all he can do is rub his thighs.

Good opening. I would read on.

Anonymous said...

Confused critter here. I yet have no idea, as you probably do of what I'm saying right now, of what's going on in this scene. It's not a bad opening--however, delete the: After it happened, and before they took her away and go straight to: Mum sat shaking and crying...--but I feel I need another hundred or so words to get anchored and to see whether I'd continue reading. Blame the 150 word limit.

Anonymous said...

Judy, I loved your comment. Most of us (but not you) are a bunch of unpublished amateurs, but we are so quick to quote all the rule books and cite every piece of work for every inane violation we can think of. None of the great classic books follow every rule, but yet they're all brought up here on a daily basis.

Did anybody see THE SURE THING ? Most of the posters remind me of the female lead, the one who obsessed on following all the rules in English Comp. class but couldn't write anything interesting. "Spontaneity has it's time and place," she said. LOL

writtenwyrdd said...

The whole thing screamed British to me, so the dressing gown worked. I also thought it sounded like a murder mystery, with a really dysfunctional family at the hub of it all. I'd have read on, and I really did like it.

ozviaaz said...

I agree with Judy!!

barbara said...

Dressing gown is Canadian too. Robe to me would mean, I dunno, the clothing the heroes steal to disguise themselves as cultists and infiltrate the secret underground temple.
Sorry to be so out-of-step with the dominant culture.
Hey, hawkowl liked this one! I feel like I should circle the date on my calendar, even though this isn't mine.

GutterBall said...

Plus you never know when someone might say "Cthulu" or tell a black-and-white joke.

You can never have too many black-n-white jokes.

And I know this is stupid, but ya lost me at Felicity. I've never liked that name. It's too "popular", at least in the States. I might read on if the story caught fire, so really really don't take this comment as anything important, but the name lost me.

Dressing gown didn't bother me, but the "She told me to do it" was a little much. Not over-the-top, but I did roll my eyes.

Sorry!