Thursday, September 24, 2009

New Beginning 688

“Don’t drive out there with all that trouble. Don’t go,” is what people said.

But other people couldn’t help themselves. They had to go.

People called it the hellhole highway, and they weren’t kidding.

Sometimes people called it that because it sounded good when they said it, like they knew what they were talking about, saying it and smiling big and nodding when they said it.

Sometimes they said it because it proved they watched the 11:00 o’clock news and they were informed; and it proved they didn’t live out in the South End with the assembly-line workers and the knifings and the drunks.

But mostly, mixed in with the other reasons, they called it that to warn their good girls about what could happen to them in a wham-bam-thank-you-ma’am kind of way without warning if they found themselves driving out close to that end of the county line, out by the rundown tinderbox houses and the human-built sludge of shopping strips and the tacky string of neon signs fired up at night like a mad carnival place.

Yes, people did like to talk about the hellhole highway. They did talk, and that is what they did.

She ponders this as she applies her bright-red lipstick. Janice Baddington can't say no to the hellhole highway. It attracts her more than she can stand.

Tonight, a full moon; beads of sweat gather on her smooth brow like pearls on a string. Her keys flash in the silvery pale moonlight and she slides into her car, one long leg after the other. She is ready to watch and to wait and to hope . . . for trouble.

The drive is long. Long to the South End, to the hellhole highway. Sometimes people call the drive a writhing snake. Janice Baddington prefers to call it “Justice.”

She turns on the car radio. Madonna belts out “Like a Virgin" as Badd--for that is what she prefers to call herself--drives past the tacky string of all-night porn shops, past the rundown, 24-hour pawn shops with their prison bar windows, past the machine-built sludge of doughnut shops with their cop cars out front like piglets suckling at a sow's teats.

The hellhole highway is the colon of the South End. But how else is Janice Baddington supposed to get to the Wal-Mart?


Opening: Robin S......Continuation: Anon./EE/Stacy

26 comments:

Evil Editor said...

Paragraphs 4 and 6 are talking about why people call it the hellhole highway, but paragraph 5 seems to be talking about why people said Don't drive out there. (Calling it hellhole highway doesn't prove you watch the news or that you don't live on the South End.)

What I'm saying is, it's not clear what "it" is in p,5 when you say Sometimes they said it...

You might try making paragraph 5 paragraph 2. This would require a minor change or two in the rest.

You might also try dropping paragraphs 2, 3 and 4 and starting p,6: But mostly they said it to warn...

This eliminates the "hellhole highway" line, but you can put that in next if you need it.

Also, you don't need both :00 and o'clock.

Anonymous said...

Very nice editing, Evil Editor!

Matthew said...

Is this the same highway that one would take to go from LA to Vegas? Is it based on that?

I thought the writing was okay. You go on a few tangents but I'm assuming that's part of the characters POV (Or the narrator's POV if you're writing it in the style of The Hobbit).

_*Rachel*_ said...

The first two paragraphs don't quite fit with the others. I'd get rid of them and prune the rest a little.

I really like this. It's got some real voice to it, and it's setting up a place where I foresee interesting characters doing interesting things.

~Aimee States said...

If you use something specific other than "that trouble", and you use the word people less, it would read better. Four times in four lines was too much for me.

Dave F. said...

This reminded me of the program TOP GEAR which is shown on BBC in the USA and employs an anonymous professional driver known as as "Stig"... They always introduce him with the words "some say..."

You have six "some say..." You only need two. Pick the strongest of what you have and keep the rest for later.

The first and second paragraphs are like "Wet Paint" when people touch it to see if it is dry.
The third paragraph poses a question without an answer.
The fourth paragraph is gossipy and catty.
I like the fifth paragraph. It presents prejudice against a bad neighborhood, class war stuff.
And I think the sixth paragraph is the best of the bunch. You give us class prejudice, illicit sex, possibly rape and ugly strip malls. All the good things of low places.

Wes said...

I recognized your voice in four sentences. It is distinctive.

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry, but I just don't care for paragraph 6. Maybe it's just because it is one really long sentence. I found myself holding my breath while reading it, and felt like I would run out of air if it didn't end soon - I'm a smoker by the way. :)

And the part about it being a 'warning but not really a warning' - paraphasing - It confused me. I would have reread it, but I didn't want to risk passing out.

But there were some good elements to this begining, and it does raise many enticing questions.

C. E. Bailey said...

I've just started reading these, but wow. This is FUNNY.

Xiexie said...

I agree with Rachel. I don't find the first two paragraphs necessary. I think People called it the hellhole highway... is a great place to start.

Paragraph 6 needs a period or two -- something to stop the eye.

I like the voice here; however there were too many "did"s in the last paragraph (before the continuation).

Good job, Robin.

Kathleen said...

I like the writing. Personally, I would suggest starting with "People called it..." The first part is confusing and awkward, and doesn't provide a good transition into the rest of your opening.

Also, I would suggest revising the good girls part so it's not "to warn ... without warning...". It's redundant and also awkward, IMHO.

good luck!!

Robin S. said...

Well, hell. I was hurrying to send EE something and I flipped a few things around, changed the name of the highway (because it's the name of the novel I've been writing scenes for), put the last two paragraphs up to be the first two paragraphs, and totally missed the 11:00/o'clock thing, and the double use of warning. Sorry, you all.

EE, are you saying it's not clear that 'calling it' travels down through the paragraphs enough so that the reader loses touch that 'it' is the highway? If so, I need to rethink that bit.

Hi Mathhew,
No- it's just a four-lane county road in the crappy part of a large Southern town.

Thanks, Rachel. And good thinking about the first two paragraphs. You're right on target - they should actually follow the rest - sorry I did them this way now. They don't read as well this way.

Aimee, I don't see what you mean. As far as I can tell, I used the word 'trouble' once.

Hi Dave,

You're right - that fourth paragraph is gossipy and catty - and defensive. The protagonist/narrator (the switch to first person is coming in a paragraph or so) is on the lower end of the middle class and this eager to find something better about her station in life than that of others - or maybe she's parroting family. Or maybe, making fun of them and their 'good' neighbors.

Hi Wes,
I'm glad it's distinctive - thanks.
It always 'sounds' better after an edit, though.

Hi Anon, Yep- one of the two warnings has to go. That and a couple of semicolons might be enough to fix your breathing problem?







By the way, that combo plan of a continuation is really good!

Whirlochre said...

I'm having trouble differentiating between the people at the start.

First, there's the people seeming to give good advice (to the protag?).

Then there's some other people, who were obviously stupid.

Then, some more people (possibly an assemblage of peoples 1 and 2, plus more undefined people) get to have an opinion.

Then all hell lets loose, with a fourth group of people who can't make up their minds what the hell kind of people they are.

I'm not sure what you're saying here bears so much repetition of the word 'people', and it's tripped me up right at the start.

When I substituted 'others', 'some' or 'the bloody French', it worked fine.

Evil Editor said...

It's obvious what you're referring to when you say "called it." Hellhole Highway.

But in p.5 you don't say "called" it. You say "said it." And what they "said" was “Don’t drive out there with all that trouble. Don’t go.”

In other words, in paragraph 4 "it" is the highway. In paragraph 5 "it" is "Don't drive out there." In paragraph 6 "it" is the highway again.

You can't claim that "it" is the highway in paragraph 5 because even people who don't watch the 11:00 news and who live in the South End could easily know it's known as hellhole highway.

Anonymous said...

I'd read on, but because I'm curious to see what the authors going to do, but I'm also worried that the "they said," will keep going and going. Also even though the sentences sound good together they don't actually make sense.

What is a wham-bam-thank-than-you mam, kind of warning? I think you wan this idea to be applied to "what can happen: but the way the last sentence is written wham-bam describes warning. Then you add a preposition "without warning" which is intended to describe how wam-bam happens, but there's so many antecedents I can't be sure. Finally "if they found..." is describing what the girls do, but again it's hard to be sure because there's too going on in this very long, run on sentence.

Ultimately all you need isa very sharp pair of pruning shears. Keep the first and the sixth paragraph (reworded). Everything else is repetitive.

Anonymous said...

I found the idea of a hellhole highway confusing. Because to me, highways are really impersonal and full of traffic and very long. Perhaps a pothole highway:)

Dave F. said...

What is a wham-bam-thank-than-you mam, kind of warning?
I can think of several reasons. How about a rest area or an exit know for illicit sexual linkups at a rent by the hour motel, or a the exit with an adult book store and live entertainment.
Alternately, that stretch of highway that narrows, curves and turns to ice first. There's always a crash on that stretch.
Or the long, straight stretch that truckers use as the Indianapolis Speedway.
Or the downhill stretch with the 180 degree hairpin turn at the botton and grooves cut in the roadway to warn you.

All those exist around me. They are all suitable for the name hellhole.

I haven't even got to miles long stretches of strip malls and gas stations like Miracle Mile (Monroeville) or the intersection of route 70/79 and Lowes, Sam's Club, Target, fifteen fast food restaurants, two hotels and route 19 in Washington PA. Now that's a traffic hellhole.

Or maybe just that one morning, I waited for twenty 18 wheelers to pass before I could get on the highway. That's route 70 for ya.

Ruth said...

I liked it. :) Very distinctive voice, and I didn't find it confusing in any way.

I agree that it might be better to cut the first two paragraphs, and start with "People called it the hellhole highway...."

I guess the only thing I didn't like was the people/other people thing in paragraph one and two.

"Faceless people said not to drive out there. But other faceless people couldn't help themselves...." If you do keep this, I'd suggest changing "people". For example, calling them "the locals" in paragraph one and in paragraph two, calling them "visitors" or "the young people" or whatever "other people" it is that do go down the hellhole highway.

I liked hellhole highway - it sounds good. "Hellhole Highway" sounds to me like a book that could be adapted into a Johnny Depp movie, and that's always good. I know it's not called Hellhole Highway, but just my $0.02. :)

stacy said...

I knew right away this was yours, Robin. You've really developed your voice.

Anonymous said...

Thank you Dave F for proving my point. It's unclear what "wham-bam" is modifying.

Evil Editor said...

Wham bam thank you ma'am is an expression. It commonly refers to what a man does and says to a woman when she wants a relationship and he just wants to get her in the sack. As in the lyrics of this song made famous by Buck Owens:
http://www.metrolyrics.com/wham-bam-lyrics-buck-owens.html

Thus if your good girl heads out Hellhole Highway looking for love, she's likely to end up with a one-night stand.

We don't need the "without warning, especially as here the good girl is being warned.

You can also find lyrics to a Dean Martin song with the same melody in which it's the woman dumping the guy.

In any case, the problem isn't what the expression modifies, it's that any girl who heads out hellhole highway is looking for a wham-bam-thank-you-ma'am evening in the first place, and what you'd warn her about is robbery, murder, rape...

Robin S. said...

Here's my quickie edit/reworking:

People called it the hellhole highway, and they weren’t kidding.

Sometimes people called it that because it sounded good when they said it, like they knew what they were talking about, saying it and smiling big and nodding when they said it.

Sometimes they called it that because it proved they watched the eleven o’clock news and they were informed; and it proved they didn’t live out in the South End with the assembly-line workers and the knifings and the drunks.

But mostly, mixed in with the other reasons, they called it that so good girls would know about what could happen to them in a wham-bam-thank-you-ma’am kind of way without warning if they found themselves driving out close to that end of the county line, out by the rundown tinderbox houses and the human-built sludge of shopping strips and the tacky string of neon signs fired up at night like a mad carnival place.

“Don’t drive out there with all that trouble. Don’t go,” is what people said.

But other people couldn’t help themselves. They had to go.


Just after this, it switches to first person. The reason I have 'people saids' written repetitively here is because people say a lot of things, and often their messages are egocentric, even when they don't mean them to be, and when a person is young, they like to make fun of that tendency. Hopefully, this comes through in the writing.

The wham-bam thing is meant to be a little bit nebulous, especially as this is written by a girl, and she's about to tell the reader all about how she got herself tangled up mightily and purposefully in a trouble-filled world she'd never before known - and why she did it.

Thanks for the comments, you all!
Much appreciated, either way. It helps to think through an opening.

Dave F. said...

"Wham Bam, That you Ma'am" could even be Buffy's much vaunted hellmouth with penis-shaped demons dancing the cha, cha, cha without condoms...
But you would only hint at that in the first 150/20 words. You might call it a teen rave or a road house of ill-repute but not a Walpurgisnacht orgy.

Evil Editor said...

It seems to me that calling it hellhole highway is something that would spread around among friends in bars, not something you would hear on the 11:00 news. Does it really prove you watch the news at 11 if you call it hellhole highway?

It also seems that once people start calling something hellhole highway, that name will spread far and wide. You seem to imply that those who live near hellhole highway have never heard it called that.

In my ill-informed opinion, the third reason people call it that is the only important reason anyone calls it that, and the first two reasons are insignificant and not worthy of mention.

batgirl said...

It's an attractive voice, very much listen-and-I'll-tell-you, but at a couple of points where the narrator seemed to assume I would understand, but I didn't. It may be that's intentional, that we're 'overhearing' the narrator as he speaks to people who already know (cool but risky technique).
I guess those trashy South End people don't call it the hellhole highway because they're the hellhole (and don't know it)? That was my best guess, and working it out slowed me down, which may not be what you want.
The other thing--and call me slow Susie here if you want--is how a young woman would find a one-night stand 'without warning', especially if she's only driving the highway. Doesn't she have to get out of the car? Do even naively eager young women find hookups for sex at strip-malls rather than bars and clubs?
So yeah, the 'without warning' put me right out of the story, without warning.

_*Rachel*_ said...

Get rid of the without warning and I'm satisfied.