Tuesday, January 27, 2009

New Beginning 600!

As much as I disliked Tessie, seeing the pained tears well in her eyes moved me. Her thin, pale lips flexed downward into a deep frown and began to quiver erratically sending a rippley twitch through her meaty, age-spotted jowls.

Tessie’s eyes widened expressively as she slowly edged closer, her plain blue track pants swishing softly. With a sustained effort, she stooped heavily to the floor and pressed her palms to her erstwhile companion. Her lips parted and a soft sad sigh escaped as she scooped her love into one hand and caressed tenderly with the other. When she finally looked up at me the question in her crystal-blue eyes was clear. Why?

“I didn’t mean to...” I stammered “It was an... He was right behind me and I was... I’d printed...Tessie—I’m so sorry.” And truly I was. I can’t remember the last time I was so sorry.

She looked scornfully into my eyes, and I knew she didn’t believe me. She was certain I’d murdered her dog because I didn’t like her. An electric pause sparked between us for a long moment as we both stared down at the lifeless clump in her cupped hands. The poor thing’s head lolled awkwardly between the thumb and forefinger of her left hand, its scrubby pink tongue jutting obscenely.

But it wasn't personal; it wasn't about Tessie at all. Her dog was just in the wrong place at the wrong time, a little Yorkshire Terrier puppy with a pink ribbon in its hair, its head cocked playfully to one side, just when I needed a cheap emotional release.

Opening: Matthew Heaggans.....Continuation: Anon.

15 comments:

Evil Editor said...

Unchosen Continuations:


I glanced at her Florida-tagged suitcase as I edged away. She was not going to like what I'd done to the goldfish. Or the microwave.
--anon.


"Look..." I gasped, seeing a way out, something to take the scorn from her shimmering eyes in their soft, pouchy sockets. "I... I'll replace your dog. Okay, Tessie?"

Her thin, pale lips ceased quivering and pursed pensively. "Okay. But I'll have to re-size the collar to fit you." --Batgirl

150 said...

Oh, anon, shame on you.

:)

Evil Editor said...

I'm not as anti-adverb as some, but there are at least eleven words ending in "ly" here. Could you cut that to two or three? In some cases the adverb isn't telling us anything we didn't assume from the verb, i.e. slowly edged, swishing softly, caressed tenderly. This reads better with no adverbs than all these, but it's hard to break an addiction cold turkey, so choose a couple favorites and dump the rest. Scornfully and obscenely aren't bothering me.

Not sure what "I'd printed..." means. Possibly we can do without it, even though he said it, and no doubt there's an explanation somewhere.

benwah said...

Too many qualifiers obscure what actually happened. Am I to understand your MC dropped a printer on a lap dog and killed it?

It's not until the 4th paragraph that you say it's a dog that's been killed. The mention of the erstwhile companion in para 2 doesn't count and merely confused me. For a moment I thought, given the "meaty age spotted jowls," that Tessie was the dog. The track pants disabused me of that notion, but it still meant I had to re-read. It's almost like you're missing a sentence describing a dead dog on the ground.

The dialogue is cumbersome. Simply "I didn't mean to...," I stammered. "Tessie, I'm so sorry" are sufficient.

Dave F. said...

I think this is a cute way to introduce the characters.

I also think that you are being too cinematic during too much of the narrative. You are trying too hard to create a movie closeup of the woman's face as she picks up the dead dog. "Eyes" doing anything like opening wide is the giveaway that you want to put a dramatic actress on the big screen and let us look at that 20 foot high closeup - tears and all that emotion.

The actual picture is person standing six foot away from another and observing their body. Think of the situation from that aspect or point of view. One person seeing another.

Also, when you put sentences together, don't put eyes next to pants and swishing. Our eyes and minds don't move that way. Her blue pants swished as she stooped over and picked up her beloved pooch. Tears dripped from her cheeks, streaking her mascara in tiny, clown-like accents. (sorry, I'm getting silly over weather).

Erstwhile? Erstwhile dog? Erstwhile companion? I had a 10 pound ball of furry lap dog and I would never refer to him as erstwhile. He was a Silky Terrier (cousin to a Yorky). I'd call him many things but never "erstwhile." I also never call him -- "demised beast" or "clump" and "companion" and "poor little thing." Gee, he was a dog. I miss him but more personal words come to mind than "erstwhile." That injects humor into the narrative because it seems so out of place.

One last thing, I think the opening two or three sentences of the fourth paragraph can be summed up in one sentence of dialog. Something like: "You killed Princess Tinkles. You always hated her," Penelope snarled... then just go to the last sentence about the lolling head and pink tongue.

PS. I hate those adverbs.

Sarah from Hawthorne said...

I really like this. That's a great opening sentence - it tells us so much about your main character and his/her relationship with Tessie while kicking right into the action. You do need some editing, especially the first and second paragraph. There's too much description and it's bogging your voice down. Pick a couple key details and save the rest for your next story. In fact, may I suggest the following?

As much as I disliked Tessie, seeing the pained tears well in her eyes moved me. Her thin, pale lips flexed downward into a deep frown and began to quiver erratically. With a sustained effort, she stooped heavily to the floor and pressed her palms to her erstwhile companion. When she finally looked up at me the question in her crystal-blue eyes was clear. Why?

MHeaggy said...

Thanks for the feedback all - and congrats, Oh great and Evil one, on the "!" landmark and thank you for including me.

Phoenix said...

I'm not as anti-adverb as some

This is why I love EE. He's so open-minded.

Aside from the thoughtful pruning that has been suggested, I was thrown a bit by the question of Why in Tessie's eyes when just a few sentences later the narrator tells us that she knows with certainty why.

And I'm not Tessie, but if I think someone's deliberately killed my dog, you better believe it ain't scorn I'm looking at him with.

BuffySquirrel said...

Didn't the great Snark say not to kill an animal in the first few pages? Of course, she also said Orion's "Lottery" wouldn't sell, and we know how that turned out. Still.

Brenda Bradshaw said...

began to quiver erratically sending a rippley twitch through her meaty, age-spotted jowls

I looooooooove this line. It is a bit heavy in description and some careful pruning would help a lot but I'd read a bit more. However, if it stayed that heavy with description, I'd have to stop. It makes me tired.

Brenda Bradshaw said...

And congrats, EE, on #600!

writtenwyrdd said...

I liked this, but there were too many elipses in the speech part for me. A bit too much of a good thing there.

Georgina said...

This feels awfully over-written. Take this sentence fragment:

Her thin, pale lips flexed downward into a deep frown and began to quiver erratically

Compare to:

Her pale lips quivered

Nothing is lost by using the second example. You've got some good lines here, like "meaty, age-spotted jowls," but they're getting lost in the wash of description.

Similarly:

Tessie’s eyes widened expressively as she slowly edged closer, her plain blue track pants swishing softly.

"Expresively" "slowly" "plain blue" "softly" are all excessive, especially on an opening page. We want to get to the action, and learning the exact colour of Tessie's pants is slowing us down.

I'm not keen on the false suspense. The POV character knows what Tessie's upset about in paragraph one, but we don't find out until paragraph four. This would cause me to put the book down, because it feels a little cheap.

You've got an interesting and unusual conflect here, so why not put it front and center? Open with something like I didn't mean to kill Tinkles, but... or Dave F.'s line, "You killed Princess Tinkles. You always hated her," Penelope snarled... The sooner you tell us the conflict, the sooner we can get engaged in the story you're telling.

Cheers.

Robin S. said...

I was just scanning down to see if I'd missed anything and I saw it.

The 600th New Beginning. Congrats, Matthew, on being #600. Makes me think if there's a way I can manipulate time, space and other things enough to get in there at #1000. Hmmmm.

Congrats, EE. You certainly do have staying power, and I'm glad.

batgirl said...

For my tastes (which are impeccable, obviously), this is carried away with itself. There are some dandy images, but they're hard to pick out because there is so much description.
How long can a spark last, for instance? Once a spark lasts for a long moment, it sounds more like an electric arc, which seems odd between characters who aren't even looking at each other.