Tuesday, August 21, 2007

New Beginning 344

The love duet between Butterfly and Pinkerton echoed through the empty museum. Austin waited for the climactic chords to fade.

"Walt, I got a problem," he waited for the radio to click. "The wax statue in Twenty-Five just slumped over. I was dusting it when it slumped." Austin's fiddled nervously with a nail that he removed from the nape of the statue's neck.

"Wax? You mean Western Man?" Walt asked over the radio.

"Yeah, the naked one with the muscles and tendons showing," answered Austin.

"It's silicone dummy, not wax. What do you want me to do? The curator will be here in a couple hours, let Her Nibs handle it." Walt sighed loud enough for the radio to transmit.

"Aren't you...?"

"No, I'm going home. I'm too old to listen to you get reamed over a twenty year old statue. Be glad Deng Xiaoping isn't alive to ask about his gift anymore."

"Silicone, huh?" Austin went back over to the statue and took a closer look. The detailing on Western Man was exquisite, every muscle ripple, every tendon taut and life-like. Even slumped over at the waist, it was magnificent.

The emotive strains of Puccini's masterpiece echoed in Austin's head. In a low baritone he sang, "Vieni, vieni," over and over as he walked around the model.




Gavin D'Arcangelo, art thief extraordinaire, watched a tiny drop of sweat fall from the tip of his nose. His thighs were cramped and it was a hundred degrees inside the prosthetic skin. He'd never get the vase if that freaking rent-a-cop didn't get the heck out of here. Where is he now? What's he do-- W-Whoa there!


Opening: Anonymous.....Continuation: Anonymous

23 comments:

Evil Editor said...

Unchosen Continuations:


Austin laughed to cover his confusion. Nibs? Just who the hell was he working with? And did Walt just call him a dummy? Or did he mean the statue was a dummy?

Pondering these late-night thoughts, Austin slowly made his way back through the Evolution Exhibit. He pushed Western Man against the wall and shoved the nail back into the statue's neck. In a couple of hours, the curator was coming. With Her Nibs.

He wondered if she was cute.

--freddie


Austin shut it off. If Walt thought he was going to get reamed over a twenty-year-old pile of silicone goo, he sure as hell didn't want to think about what Her Nibs was going to do when she saw the remains of the Michelangelo in the foyer.

--Khazar-khum


"Shiiiiit," Austin said. "I'd like see that old curator try to ream me. Please. I would knock that ol' cow clear across - "

Walt clicked off his walkie-talkie, cutting Austin off in mid-sentence. Reamed over the statue? More like reamed by the statue. Western Man was woken only every 50 years by a security guard bored enough to dust him, but up until now Walt had figured that was just an old wives' tale. One he'd sorta forgotten to tell Austin about.

Oops, guess it wasn't, he thought as he walked out the museum, Austin's screams first rising, then fading, behind him.

--freddie

Bernita said...

Mild.
Some repetition: waited/waited, for example.
Could be avoided by something like "After the climactic chords faded, Austin keyed the radio. 'Walt, I got a problem.'"
And you don't really need to repeat that Walt asked "over the radio."
Trust us, we realize the conversation is over the radio.You don't need to remind us twice more.
Also his description of the event doesn't ring true for me. Think he would be more likely to say, subjectively, " I was dusting that wax statue in Twenty-Five when it just slumped over."
Do you really need "nervously" modifying "fiddled"?
And is it "a" silicone dummy, or is it "It's silicone, dummy, not wax"?

writtenwyrdd said...

There wasn't any tension here, despite the vague picture of damage to an exhibit. I think the problem with this opening is, so far, it feels like one of the openings we've seen here that begin in a car, in a traffic jam or just after an accident. They aren't necessarily the wrong place to start, but in 150 words they usually feel like it.

Also, not sure what slumping refers to, it's not very visual for me because I do not know what the exhibit looks like.

Anonymous said...

"It's silicone dummy, not wax.
Now that's ambiguous, delightfully ambiguous. It's like the line in Hadrian VII where the principal character says to a hard of hearing matron - "tickle your ass with a feather?"
And when she demands he repeats the phrase, he says - "Particularly nasty weather!"

BuffySquirrel said...

Austin's fiddled nervously with a nail that he removed from the nape of the statue's neck.

You need to remove that stray 's (or give it an object).

It's not clear to me if Austin is fiddling with the nail, then removes it from the statue, or if he's fiddling with a nail he's already removed. If the former, a "then" would probably help the meaning; if the latter, the sentence needs a "had".

Yes, a "had". Suck it up, Dave.

~Nancy said...

"Walt, I got a problem," he waited for the radio to click. "The wax statue in Twenty-Five just slumped over. I was dusting it when it slumped." Austin's fiddled nervously with a nail that he removed from the nape of the statue's neck.

Methinks this needs some work. First off, I'd put a period after "problem," then capitalize "he."

Second, how can a wax statue slump over? Did a piece break off or something? Or maybe something melted, and wax ran down the statue? I'm just not getting a clear picture here.

Should be "Austin," not the possessive.

Past the above, as bernita said, you don't have to keep telling us Walt is on the radio; we'll remember after the first time. :-)

"It's silicone dummy, not wax...

Is it "one" silicone dummy, or is Walt calling Austin a dummy? If it's the former, insert "a" before "silicone." If it's the latter, put a comma before "dummy."

After going through all that, I'm afraid that this beginning doesn't grab me. Maybe this isn't the right place to start your story. Maybe the next paragraph is where it starts to get interesting.

FWIW.

~jerseygirl

jjdebenedictis said...

Still snickering at the continuation. W-w-whoa, indeed!

I liked this well enough, and I "get" what is happening. The statue is a real body of some kind and the nail held it frozen. I'd keep reading; there's something going on here.

My main quibble is we hear about the story's inciting incident via backstory, rather than getting to see it. Austin took the nail out, the statue slumped over, and now he realises he has a problem to solve. That's a great way to begin a story, but you aren't beginning there.

When Austin calls Walt, that's Austin's first attempt to solve his problem. I'd suggest you back up a little and let the reader see the story's true beginning. Show us Austin frowning in confusion and pulling out the nail. Show us what happens next, then detail Austin's shock and worry.

The reader is a lot more likely to care about Austin's conversation with Walt if the reader understands exactly why Austin is in a dither.

Robin S. said...

Hi author,

I liked the first sentence of your opening and I like the idea of this - of the slumping statue.

I'd say keep the first pargraph as is, rewrite the last sentence of the second paragraph. 3rd paragraph, take out the "asked over the radio" - not needed.

And that's about it. I'd keep reading to find out what the deal was with the statue, why it slumped and why it matters, (but I really hope it matters).

The continuation was a scream. Whoa, indeed.

Anonymous said...

the author says, Thanks.
interesting comments. How's this sound?


The climactic chords of the love duet between Butterfly and Pinkerton echoed through the empty museum. Austin keyed the radio. "Walt, I got a problem. I was dusting the wax statue in Twenty-Five it when just slumped over." Austin didn't want to admit he removed a nail from the statue's neck. It grew ominous in his hand.

"Wax? You mean Deng Xiaoping's Western Man?" Walt asked.

"Yeah, the naked one with the muscles and tendons showing."

"It's silicone, dummy, not wax. What do you want me to do? You did it. The curator will be here in a couple hours, let her nibs handle it." Walt's sigh carried over the radio.

"Aren't you...?"

"No, I'm going home. I'm too old to listen to you get reamed over a twenty year old statue. Be glad Deng Xiaoping isn't alive to ask about his gift anymore." Walt set the radio into its cradle.

"Aw crap Walt, can't you phone now, please, please. I'm begging," Austin whimpered. Walt glanced back at the phone and waved a hand at it in frustration.

"Aw crap Austin, everything you touch, you break. If you won't stop handling the exhibits, you're on your own." Walt said knowing that Austin couldn't hear him. He closed the metal doors of the museum with a clang as he left.

"Walt, Please don't leave me. She's going to fire my ass for sure. You there Walt, please, Walt," Austin's voice rose and cracked. Tears welled up in his eyes.

"Quit fucking begging, asswipe. Act like a man, not a pussy," a voice said behind him.

BuffySquirrel said...

You still need that "had".

jjdebenedictis said...

I still think you should start when Austin pulls the nail out. :-)

Also, in the rewrite, I think the tears in Austin's eyes are a bit overkill, actually.

iago said...

It grew ominous in his hand.

Cringe.

Is this omniscient or just poor POV control? We seem to be with Austin, then we get Walt's thoughts about the statue "tale", then we're with Austin, then we see Walt glancing and waving at the phone...

My sense is that the story might be fun -- like one of those cavemean in LA movies or Night at the Museum -- but it also feels like you're early in the drafting process.

The quick rewrite to please the critics probably didn't help you much.

You do seem to have captured with authenticity Western Man's language, though, looking at the last line...

Anonymous said...

Opening it with the removal of the nail doesn't improve it. It just makes it Star Trekie or Outer Limits like.

Follow me:
Austin worked as security guard and janitor during the off hours. He kept the museum exhibits company and cleaned any trash left by the docents. His favorite statue stood in Gallery 25 - the figure of a man with silicone skin and visible organs and muscles. The gift of Deng (Etc...)
This night, while Austin polished the brass and waxed the exhibits, he discovered a nail in the base of the statue's neck.
"The high school kids must be pulling jokes again," he said aloud to no one. He wanted to tell Walt, the evening security guard. Hoever, Walt was busy listening to Madame Butterfly on the Museum sound system - Puccini revealing Butterfly's heritage as Austin pulled the nail out of the statue.
The statue slumped over. Austin lifted the silicone arm but it fell limp.

(and now he waits for the aria to finish).

That's like putting lipstick on a pig. It's still a pig.

Well not that bad. But it's telling the story over and over. What do we know in this opening that we don't know in the revised opening. Granted I could dress it up, but the question still applies.

The drama occurs when the statue speaks. If I had balls, I'd write the story from the last line of the revised opening where the staute says "Be a Mensch!"

That night, that fateful night, a statue spoke to Austin.
Overdramatic isn't it? And it's channeling Rod Serling. This is like that "tears" line overdone.

The story occurs when Austin steals the technology to create his new leg. The love affair occurs between the statue and woman he loves, who had him turned to silicone and is now "her Nibs"...

So this is a gentle and mild opening. Real screaming drama comes in later chapters.

jjdebenedictis said...

Uh, Anonymous 8:16PM? No. This is what I mean by starting when Austin pulls the nail out - here's the first line:

Frowning, Austin pulled the nail out of the statue's neck.

No lipstick there, whereas your first seven sentences are all needless backstory. Booooo-ring.

McKoala said...

Loved the continuation.

Yes to the 'had'. It's needed here. Sorry, Dave.

The rewrite is clearer; but the POV shift is not great. Please try to stick with Austin. What is the point of the music? Not quite sure where this is going, but I think it's interesting.

Anonymous said...

The author says:
Western Man says things that get him into deep trouble. He has a lot of trouble with profane language.

I can fix the Walt POV thing.

There are two magnificent love duets in all of opera. One is Pinkerton and Cio Cio San at the end of Act one in Madame Butterfly, and the other is Gia Nella Notte Densa from Othello. Unfortunately, both female leads die at the end of the operas.

This isn't to say that there aren't other arias of sublime beauty, Ritorno Vincitor from Aida and Wotan's Farewell at the end of Die Valkyrie and every note of Tristan and Isolde by Wagner are sublime music. However, they just aren't love duets.

What would you have an older man - Walt - listen to? Marky Mark? Blue Oyster Cult? Dr Dre? Celine Dion? Perry Como?

Anonymous said...

The Author says:
The emotive strains of Puccini's masterpiece echoed in Austin's head. In a low baritone he sang, "Vieni, vieni," over and over as he walked around the model.

I saw this early today. This deserves an award, a Pulitzer even! Miracle of Miracles. Double entendre in Italian! Magnifico!

iago said...

What would you have an older man - Walt - listen to? Marky Mark? Blue Oyster Cult? Dr Dre? Celine Dion? Perry Como?

I don't think anyone is challenging the choice of music. It's just that you draw notice to it, with specifics, so early on, we're perhaps anticipating some foreshadowing. So, it's not so much "what's the point of the music" as "what's the significance of the music: of that particular aria?"

Anonymous said...

The Author says:
What's the signifigance of a love duet between an oriental and a westerner resulting in tragedy?

The love affair occurs between the statue and woman he loves, who had him turned to silicone and is now "her Nibs"...

The statue is western man - a spy with a nasty mouth. The curator is the Chinese woman who had him turned into a statue thirty five or forty years earlier. And no, I'm not going to write their love affair in the museum. That would be creepy old age sex with silicone (eeeeeeuuuuuwww, yuck!)

McKoala said...

I simply wondered where the music was coming from. Walt listening to it never occurred to me. I thought it was coming from an exhibit and wondered why it had been triggered.

Anonymous said...

Author - you're not Dave's twin brother by any chance, are you?

Or Dave's twin's brother?

At all?

Anonymous said...

The author goes DUH!

OOOOPS! I read your question the other way.
Walt's playing it over the museum PA.

WouldBe said...

You're 250+ words into the story and the reader knows little more than that the MC is a weak screw-up. I'd almost rather follow the guard who left. The voice that appeared at the end of the second version is a hook, but it should appear much earlier, because the sniveling is boring.