Monday, October 29, 2007

New Beginning 394

‘Craig boy’ is what we called him. Stud muffin to the stars is what he was, or what he thought he was, anyway, driving us in his bronze-colored van down through the main streets of Gatlinburg at dusk, all happy with himself and his stereo system and his fluffy warm seats.

With the big belt and the big boots and the new felt hat, he looked like he’d been trussed up in his sleep by a woman who didn’t love him, not one little bit. But I didn’t think he’d been with a woman he hadn’t had to pay for in some way for a long, long time, or maybe never, much less one that simply didn’t love him. So the trussing was all down to Craig boy, and his Tennessee cowboy dreaming.

Vivian was eyeballing him something fierce. It was like she’d just realized he was a fool, as though that hadn’t been there before we crossed state lines, him being a fool.

As it took time away from her eyeballing me and any nipple exposure I might’ve had through my sweater, I found it funny. I couldn’t stop smiling, watching her watching him, from my perch on the platform in the back of the van, laying on the fake bearskin rug belonging to Randall T.

Randall T was what we called him now, anyway, another new name to hide our unwanted fame as word about us reached the suburbs. We traveled after dark mostly, now, attracting too much attention from the state troopers in the daytime, they with their low slung bellies and tobacco tainted southern drawls. "What you pesky kids doing round these parts," they'd say and laugh like they'd just delivered the monologue for Johnny Carson. Assholes.

So we spray-painted the van and picked new names for ourselves and Fred became Craig boy and I was Leanne and that stoner hippy, Shaggy, we called him Randall T, and Velma, well she was still Velma 'cause nobody noticed her anyway.

I just wish we could get rid of that fucking talking dog.


Opening: Robin.....Continuation: ril

16 comments:

Evil Editor said...

Unchosen Continuations:


Years later, I heard about 'Craig boy' in the news.

Seems he got himself in a bit of trouble shoe-tapping in an airport bathroom.

I smiled, picturing the big belt, the new felt hat, and those big boots of his. I wondered just how many people appreciated his sense of fashion.

--Church Lady


We had time, too, since no one would be missing Randall for a few days, because no one misses a Circle K clerk and drummer for a garage band.

it was all Vivian's plan, getting to Tennessee so she could sing. And Randall had never really been part of that plan. He wasn't one of us, he was never going to be one of us, there was no point in trying to pretend anymore. So I helped her drain his blood before dropping him into the river.

Tennessee looked to be a good bet for vampires.

--Khazar-khum

Evil Editor said...

I like paragraphs 1 and 3. This being a chapter opening, I'm not sure what's already gone on with Craig boy. However, if the narrator's on the platform in the back, eyeballing Vivian, and Craig is driving, it seems unlikely she would be noticing that he looks trussed up.

For that matter, I'm not sure what is being conveyed by "he looked like he’d been trussed up in his sleep by a woman who didn’t love him," or by "the trussing was all down to Craig boy". Trussed up = dressed? This would read fine without the second paragraph. We'll figure out no woman would want Craig when we get to know him, if we haven't already.

Change "laying on the fake bearskin rug belonging to Randall T." To lying on Randall T.'s fake bearskin rug." Better yet, delete it entirely.

amy said...

As much as I hate when people use "laying" for "lying," I'm going to disagree with EE here and suggest that it's part of the character's voice. (I would, however, change "that" to "who" in the fourth sentence, just for clarity.)

In general, I liked the voice here, including the second paragraph, and I would keep reading. I particularly liked: "It was like she’d just realized he was a fool, as though that hadn’t been there before we crossed state lines, him being a fool."

Dave F. said...

I think that the second paragraph is gilding the lily (to borrow a cliche). It only supports the already established facts that Craig is an egotistical jerk and full of himself. The thought that he hadn't been with a woman he hadn't paid is too much too fast.

I would save that line for some later argument Craig has with Vivian or the narrator. I wouldn't unleash that nasty of insult this fast. You're wasting its effect.

"perched ... laying on the fake bearskin rug ... with nipple exposure"
That paragraph just takes my breath away. It brings to mind my worst images of a slutty woman. And to me, it labels your narrator as a (I'll withhold those words as too nasty for any verbalization), Let's just say bimbo is a nice term.

Why is your narrator aroused and dressed in a tight sweater? AND, riding around in Craig-Boy's van? Across State lines. . . That's an interesting statement all by itself.

I like the opening, by the way, and I like the way that tension and danger and mystery is brought in.
before we crossed state lines,
Five great little words.

I think you can achieve the same effect in fewer words. I think you need to focus it. Great descriptions of some real characters, with faults and imperfections.

Evil Editor said...

We recently discussed whether incorrect grammar as voice (not in dialogue) was irritating to the reader. Most preferred correct grammar. To me, this narrator is the type who would mock Craig's bad grammar, so she ought to know better herself (not that that always follows). She could say lyin', thus keeping those who would think that the author or editor didn't know the correct form from looking so smug.

I'd still consider deleting the phrase. I like detail, but she's in the back of the van. Do I need to know that she's on a rug and that the rug's bearskin and that the bearskin's fake and that the fake bearskin rug is Randall T's? I find the extra detail here slows the transition into what happens next. I'm more interested in that.

I still don't get why the fact that his clothing is worthy of mockery leads to the thought that a woman dressed him in his sleep. If I don't get it, other readers may not get it.

Ali said...

I liked this. Especially the description of Craig, "all happy with himself and his stereo system and his fluffy warm seats," and "the trussing was all down to Craig boy, and his Tennessee cowboy dreaming." I want to know what kind of van he drives. Call me shallow, but old VW bus vs. minivan vs. Ford Econoline says a lot about a person's character to me.

The fourth paragraph threw me. Why would Vivian care about the narrator's nipple exposure and why would the narrator care what Vivian thought? I assumed the fact that the narrator is lying on Randall's bearskin rug is significant, maybe the result of some competition between her and Vivian over Randall T. Unless, of course, Randall T is the infant she just finished nursing and they're in the Applebee's parking lot and that's why she's worried about nipple exposure...

Robin S. said...

Hi ril,

Love your Scooby continuation! It's
so funny- especially since your era isn't very far off.

This takes place in the mid-70s, in the South- and it's the chapter opening following the one I put on here back in February (NB 211), (which has since been radically rewritten).

Anyway - here's the background of the previous chapter- Randall T. is the hoof-lamp man in the other opening. Vivian is a hippy friend of his. She and the narrator actively loathe each other. Vivan is an earth-mother type, married to Randall's best friend (not Craig). The narrator is a Playboy bunny, although she won't be much longer.

EE - I was going to ask you the laying/lying question - because I think this just goes with the character and her voice. In the South, people from a certain background (these would be the people who could not, for example, afford Vanderbilt, or maybe even a junior college)- these people may KNOW the word is lying rather than laying- but they'd use laying anyway - it comes naturally, as they hear it all of the time that way. Does that matter? Is it still a deal killer?

So- I've tried "g" dropping - and was told by a source I trust that that doesn't work - it annoys readers. (So I'm only going to do that in dialog.) And now I can't use laying. Hmmm. (In reality, I drop g's all of the time. Any word that ends in g - it's dropped.)


'all trussed up' is kinda like saying this guy's a turkey.

Thanks, Amy and Dave, for liking the cross state lines bit.

Ali, the van is one of those 70s panel vans that people fixed up inside.

Evil Editor said...

"Laying" isn't a deal breaker, especialy if she's been using other ungrammatical phrasings. The trouble with using "laying" as the narrator is that the whole book is narrated by this person and you'll have to be consistent. Any bad grammar the character would use in speech you'll have to use in the narration. How annoying that will get depends on how well she speaks.

If this were an oral account of events, I'd be more inclined to go with this authentic voice, but clearly the character has stepped away from the events of the past and is writing a book about them. Possibly she would clean up the grammar, especially her own.

If it's important what she's lying on, you could say "stretched out on" or "sprawled on" or just plain "on," without losing voice.

McKoala said...

I liked this, although I had to read it a couple of times to follow it. I didn't get the 'trussed up' reference either, or the nipple thing, but I loved the tone and would keep reading.

McKoala said...

oh yeah and the continuation was absoloooootely brilliant. Where've you been ril?!

Wonderwood said...

Hi Robin! I like this opening, it pulled me right into the van. I agree with the other commenters about the second paragraph. I went back and read it a couple more times, with and without that paragraph, and I just think it reads better without it. I like the description about no woman loving him, but unless it's important that we know it at that moment, I'd suggest dropping it in somewhere else. Overall, great job!

And another RIL classic! Nice job, RIL.

pacatrue said...

Hi Robin. I'm late to the party as usual. This was one of those things where I liked each individual part, but I was having a hard time keeping my feet grounded. For me, it felt like it wandered a bit from person to person. I imagined character 1, then there was character 2, then suddenly 3, then 4. I think if you could just add a phrase here or there to help situate the whole scene, that would clear things up.

But as someone sorta from Tennessee, you had me at Gatlinburg.

Robin S. said...

Hi, mckoala, wonderwood and paca,

I'm wondering if this would be as confusing if the previous chapter had been read - because that's where the grounding for these characters takes place.

Still, with so many not liking that second paragraph where it is,
I might need to look at moving it somewhere else to keep the story flowing along.

OK, EE - point taken on the speech pattern. I see what you mean. Here goes another reread for me.

Anonymous said...

Hi Robin,

I like this. It's got a very nice voice. I get a good feel for the narrator. You've got great rhythm here, too.

Not sure about the trussing part as it automatically has me picturing him tied up. And that's basically what it means. I lived in the south, but I still think tied, not dressed.

Here's my stab at tightening:

‘Craig boy’ is what we called him. Stud muffin to the stars is what he thought he was. driving us in his bronze-colored van down through the main streets of Gatlinburg at dusk, all happy with himself and his stereo system and his fluffy warm seats.

With the big belt, the big boots and the new felt hat, he looked like he’d been done up in his sleep by a woman who didn’t love him. But I didn’t think he’d been with a woman he hadn’t had to pay for in some way for a long time, much less one that didn’t love him. So it was all down to Craig boy, and his Tennessee cowboy dreaming.

Vivian was eyeballing him something fierce, like she’d just realized he was a fool. As though that hadn’t been there before we crossed state lines, him being a fool.

I found it funny, watching her watching him, as it took time away from her eyeballing me and any nipple exposure I might’ve had through my sweater. Lying on Randall T’s fake bearskin rug on the platform in the back of the van, I couldn’t stop smiling.

Sarah

ril said...

Where've you been ril?!

Boston.

Travelling a lot, things are crazy, not enough time to do what I like doing best.* I've been stopping by, though.

Since I'm here: I enjoy reading Robin's stuff: she has a voice and style all her own, with the flowing run-on sentences and repetitions that wrap around and pull me in.

There's something about this particular opening, though, that feels a little sterile compared to usual -- probably the stuff others have already commented on.

Maybe it's because I don't have the context of all the characters from previous chapters, but I get a one-dimensional feeling here. I can relate to the situation and the van more than to the characters. I don't know how much is contextual and wouldn't bother me in a longer extract vs. 150 words.

"Trussed" says tied up to me, too.

But: Don't edit out your voice!



*Writing stuff.**

**Okay, second best.

Robin S. said...

Hi Sarah and ril,

Thanks for the comments - I really appreciate your liking the voice and the rhythm of my writing

I think I'm goinmg to have to read through the previous chapter - and see if the flow continues through this opening - or if there are "stops" in it- like the trussing, etc. - that I need to address.