Thursday, May 07, 2009

New Beginning 635

In this house, on this night, a man is troubled, troubled by a recurring dream that seems to haunt him night after night. A dream that he tries to escape, whether by drowning himself in alcohol or by indulging in his never-ending supply of sleeping pills. He just can’t escape his constant visions of death. He is awakened by loud peals of thunder and the heavy downpour of raindrops beating on the roof of his new black Phantom, sitting in the driveway of his Virginia cabin. His pillow and sheets are soaked with cold sweat as he gets up, gasps for air, and sits on the edge of the bed to pull himself together. He reaches into the drawer of the night table to grab his favorite box of cigars, lights one, and takes a couple of pulls from it. He puts on his sweat suit and goes out for a three-am jog in the surrounding woods. When he gets outside, the thunder sounds louder to him, as if God himself was purposefully beating on a drum directly into his ear.

He takes a sip from the tube of his Camelback. The tequila goes down like liquid emery board, just the way he likes it. He coughs and sputters, but doesn't break stride. Taking a drag on the cigar every few steps, he scoops a handful of sleeping pills from his belt pouch and washes them down with another long pull on the tequila. When the pouring rain extinguishes his cigar, the man rips the sodden stogie into pieces and swallows them one by one.

He comes to the best part of the trail, a razor-sharp ridge with vertical drops on both sides, the highest point for five miles. It's his favorite place to take a nighttime jog in a raging thunderstorm.

But he can't enjoy it. The haunting vision refuses to loosen its grip.

His heart pounds louder than the thunder and sweat mats his hair and whiskers. Every night. Every night he wakes in a panic, sure that this time, this time he won't have anything funny to put on the blog.


Opening: Jeff Brown.....Continuation: John/Anon.

17 comments:

Evil Editor said...

Unchosen continuations:


The trees loom up around him like upended trumpet dripping wads of spit from their bells. He jogs on and on, into the dark and stormy night. For him it is always a dark and stormy night when it begins, when he realizes he must write another novel, another novel to express the deep and utter longing of the literary soul.

The tip of his cigar glows, a beacon of lonely light in the woods, and he continues jogging, passing right by the Dowager II UFO sitting beside the road. If he had seen it, he would have become the greatest science fiction writer in history, and he would have ended his days happily. But he did not see it, and he continued on in the rain, alone.

--Rachel


He stretches, peering into the shadows around him, shadows that seem full of menace. Drenched already, he pushes his dripping hair away from his eyes, and begins to jog along the muddy footpath.

"What on earth are you doing?" The booming voice seems to come from everywhere. He scans the woods in alarm, but sees no one.

"Who are you?" he croaks. A wolf howls in the distance.

"For an entire week, I show you visions - the full moon, your torn and mangled body, blood glistening on the wet leaves. Not only that, tonight I re-route the weather on the entire east coast to whip up this thunderstorm, and still you decide to go out for a run at three in the morning?"

More wolves howling. And much closer.

"Oh," he says.

--Amy K.


He arrives at a stage, a stage surrounded by zombies. He gets up to share his dream, his dream of equality for everyone: the living, the dead, and the undead. He looks down at the front row and sees Simon Cowell. And then he knows, knows that he will have to sing his dream.

--Faceless Minion


The man wakes up for the second time. There is no thunder, rain, sweat, cigars, jogging suit, woods or even drum. There is also no new black Phantom in the driveway. He dies of disappointment.

--Hanne


Zzzap! Arghhhhssssizzle. The End.

--Hanne


As lightning sears his retinas and the trees whirl around his head, this man realizes seventy hours a week in the city and seven figures a year may qualify you for a cabin in the woods, but it doesn't qualify you to pick your own wild mushrooms.

--anon.


In the woods, on this night, a man is struck by lighting. His lit cigar falls to the forest floor, resulting in a forest fire that engulfs the cabin. "Maybe next time you'll listen to me when I'm talking to you," God says.

--Mignon

Evil Editor said...

I would delete some of the early stuff until it began:

In this house, on this night, a man is awakened by . . .

Better to open with action.

Plus, you claim the problem is a dream, then later say he has constant visions of death. Is he troubled constantly or just when dreaming? And if the latter, do sleeping pills prevent dreaming?

Sarah Laurenson said...

Generally sleeping pills prevent dreaming. They may make them better these days, but it used to be you had to go off them for awhile and allow yourself to dream or you'd go insane. My dad was on sleeping pills long term, so I guess the dreams break through at some point now.

I feel like I'm being kept at one remove from this character and I'd really like to be a little closer. Waking in the Phantom - isn't that a car? - and then being in the house confused me. But maybe it's not a car.

Love the continuation!

Evil Editor said...

Generally sleeping pills prevent dreaming.Apparently this guy's don't, so one wonders why he takes them.

Dave F. said...

In some people, the sleeping pill Ambien causes all sorts of bad problems like sleepwalking, cooking, driving the car, injuring oneself with a knife.

Dave F. said...

When you say seomthing like "He just can’t escape his constant visions of death" think about deleting that line and adding at various points things like...
- the shadow of death fell across his path.
- the black shape of death slipped out of sight
- The tree cast a the shadow of a hooded man in a scythe

Make it a recurring image. Make it a theme if you can.

wendy said...

Gosh Dave, I don't even want to know how you know that! (Okay maybe a little.) ;)

Jeff,
Me too on what Sarah said. I'd really like to be inside the guys head as he experiences this stuff. At least I'd like to read the experience that way. For real - not so much.

Some of your description is really interesting. That's what drew me into the story at first. Something kept me reading, though I'm not exactly sure of what it was. I'd like to see more of this story after you've cut 10%. You've certainly got me wanting to know "why" and "what's next?"

Goodluck with it!

writtenwyrdd said...

I think besides what others mention, visually that huge paragraph is a bit daunting. Perhaps break it up into two or three of them?

I felt like you were trying to develop a mood with this opening, and it ended up working a bit too hard. Try evoking the mood by showing us things that will do that rather than telling us in a shopping listy way.

I used to go jogging at 2 or 3 am when I couldn't sleep. I must say running down a pitch dark road in the middle of nowhere was pretty dumb. Anything could have happened. Which is why I expect something awful to happen to your guy in the next couple of paragraphs!

Faceless Minion said...

Interesting effects from skimming and not reading carefully:

I didn't even notice the word 'death'

He lights the box of cigars?


Also, no flashlight at 3am in the woods in a heavy downpour? Even with a full moon how can he see anything?

Faceless Minion said...

As a side note:

Don't mix alcohol and sleeping pills.

_*Rachel*_ said...

My view on present tense is that it only works in first person. I'm prejudiced because that's the way I do it and I can't remember ever reading anything present, 3rd person. Not used to it.

BuffySquirrel said...

I see openings like this in slush a lot. Everyone's different, of course, but I like scenes. I don't much like gloss, especially at the beginning. Because of the lack of paragraph breaks, this looks like a whole lot of gloss.

I'd probably get about four lines in and reject.

batgirl said...

Needs some tightening (you don't need 'recurring' AND 'night after night' AND haunting) and cleaning up (his sheets are soaked only as he gets up? fast sweat).
Because nothing's actually happening yet except foreshadowing, I was distracted by questions like 'he can hear rain on his car while he's in his bedroom?' and 'he has more than one box of cigars beside his bed?' (because one box is his favourite - the others are redheaded stepchildren).
This is all cosmetic and easily fixed. But I get the feeling your story hasn't started yet. When does the door close behind him so he can't turn back? When does the boulder start to roll down the hill?

Adam Heine said...

There are a lot of good phrases and images here, but I think too much. And I think the reason it's too much is because (as has been said) it's all foreshadowing; it's putting off what we want to know (i.e. what's the dream).

Not that you have to tell us the dream, specifically, but there does need to be some action to draw us in.

And the rain-on-the-Phantom sentence confused me. I thought he was in the car, and when I realized he wasn't I thought, "Why is he hearing raindrops only in that specific place?" It sounds like you, the author, are trying to draw our attention to the car, and it comes across as artificial.

Chris Eldin said...

OMG! The continuation was brilliant!!!

Author, I really like the opening, but felt (like the others) it was a bit too long...the voice is great though!

Robin S. said...

An edited version:

In this house, on this night, a man is troubled by a recurring dream that haunts him night after night; s dream he tries to escape by drowning himself in alcohol or by indulging in his never-ending supply of sleeping pills.

He is awakened by loud peals of thunder and the heavy downpour of raindrops beating on the roof of his new black Phantom, sitting in the driveway of his Virginia cabin. His pillow and sheets are soaked with cold sweat as he gets up, gasps for air, and sits on the edge of the bed to pull himself together.

He reaches into the drawer of the night table to grab his favorite box of cigars, lights one, and takes a couple of pulls from it. He puts on his sweat suit and goes out for a three-am jog in the surrounding woods. When he gets outside, the thunder sounds louder, as if God himself was purposefully beating on a drum directly into his ear.

I like where you are with this - it set up tension well - but it felt wadded up with melodrama. Now it reads cleaner (to me).

Buffy- your note about instant rejection is a cause for concern. If Carver had been rejected as easily, where would we be? His editor incised his over-words and took the meat of his fiction down to the meaningful bone. But you have to be able to see the meaningful bone underneath/inside, in order to know how to edit it/find it. Your comment honestly makes me wonder how much is lost in quick dismissal.

BuffySquirrel said...

Robin, you're welcome to come to GUD and work in our slush for a while, and then you'll realise how come quick dismissal is the norm :).

If I pared this down to the bone, there'd be no bone. I see no bone.