Thursday, July 15, 2010

New Beginning 767

I knew what I was getting into. At least, I knew what it was supposed to be; several people had told me, and plainly they believed what they said. But equally plainly they had never gone inside to see for themselves.

The building over the stairhead, with its white clapboard walls and open door, certainly didn’t look like an entrance to Hell. They told me the look would change quickly enough once I was inside.

“Will the door close behind me?” I asked. “Have you ever seen it shut?’ They couldn’t or wouldn’t answer me. I was tired of them, their habits and their fears. I set my hand against the wide white door. It didn’t stir. I put my foot on the threshold. Still no movement. I stepped through, balancing on my toes, ready to leap back if the door showed signs of slamming. It didn’t move. Looking back through it, I saw an empty field; they had left me to my folly, or I had left them to theirs, whichever way you cared to think of it.

I inched my way down the long hallway toward the only door, which was at the far end. If this was truly the way into Hell, there was still no sign of it. No screaming, no smoke . . . heck, it wasn't even hot.

Finally reaching the door, I pulled it open, ever so slowly, as if--despite my skepticism--I feared a backdraft from the lake of fire would blow it off its hinges. Inside was a desk behind which sat a horrible horned demon. His skin was red, his eyes glowed, his feet--cloven hooves--were crossed on top of his desk as he leaned back reading a copy of O magazine.

"Are you . . . him?" I asked.

"Him?" he said. "Oh, you mean . . . No, no, I'm just the receptionist. He's in there." He pointed to an iron door twice my height. "Go right in; he's expecting you."

I'd come this far, and who knew if turning back was even an option? The door opened with a screech and I entered. I spoke immediately, before I could lose my courage: "Greetings, EE. Her Love Slave is a 60,000-word romance about a . . . "


Opening: Joanna Hoyt.....Continuation: Evil Editor

19 comments:

Evil Editor said...

Unchosen continuation:


Suddenly an old woman came up to me. Well not suddenly. I mean she was old so she did move that fast. Then again when your at the doors of Hell time moves differently so maybe it was suddenly. I don't know.

"Welcome to Wal-Mart," she said.

--anon.

Evil Editor said...

I would dump the first paragraph. It isn't serving any purpose I can see.

Add "them" to the first sentence of paragraph 3.

And I'd get rid of: I was tired of them, their habits and their fears.

Anonymous said...

Hey Joanna,
Who knows better than the Evil One? Staring at para 2 is a better place. Now where does a nice girl get these thoughts? Chuckle. I enjoyed it. AND that continuation, hehehehe, salute. Best, Bibi

Angie said...

Well, I always knew you were the devil, EE.

Also love the Walmart one. So funny.

Joanna Hoyt said...

Thanks. I hear you about para 1. I was trying to make it clear there that the narrator is going to hell to see what it's like, not on some heroic quest. There may be a better way to do that.
Amazing continuations!

Dave F. said...

Well why don't you come out and say that he wants to "visit" hell just to see it?

Think something like:
Every Dante has his Virgil, Orpheus his Eurydice, I had curiosity as my guide.

I'm not fond of They couldn’t or wouldn’t answer me.
Who are "they"? It's a touch too ambiguous for me. Perhaps there is nothing that can be done about that because there shouldn't be too many words between the dialog and when the narrator touches the white door. Maybe you could just say that no one answered his question.

A big question on reader's minds will be is this a Dantean hell. Are the demons red and scaly? And all that jazz.

Sarah from Hawthorne said...

Hi Joanna!

I liked this, and if I were you I wouldn't worry about explaining the narrator's motivation. Your character's curiosity is pretty clear from his/her line to the mysterious "they," and "their" non-response.

And maybe cut the line "I was tired of them, their habits and their fears." It feels unnecessary when you show your narrator's disdain a sentence later with a much better turn of phrase: "(T)hey had left me to my folly, or I had left them to theirs, whichever way you cared to think of it."

_*rachel*_ said...

I'd ditch most of the first paragraph for: I knew what I was getting into. Probably.

So, Joanna, your MC does this, to borrow the colloquialism, "4 teh lolz?"

Stephen Prosapio said...

Something's wrong.

I like it. I like all of it--the opening, EE's continuation, and even the unchosen continuation.

Something's wrong. I'm not myself. I need to get really drunk so I wake up hung over and crabby.

Joanna Hoyt said...

Thanks again. You've convinced me; I'll cut para 1 and the habits-and-fears sentence.
Dave, that's a big question on the narrator's mind too at this stage, and gets answered shortly.

BuffySquirrel said...

I think if anything's wrong it's that the protag's emotion isn't really coming across. Unless their emotion is indifference.

pacatrue said...

Yay, it's BuffySquirrel!

Just wanted to say that.

Joanna Hoyt said...

Trying again:

The building over the stairhead, with its white clapboard walls and open door, certainly didn’t look like an entrance to Hell. They told me the look would change quickly enough once I was inside.
“Will the door close behind me?” I asked. “Have you ever seen it shut?’ They couldn’t or wouldn’t answer me.
I was frightened, of course, but that hardly mattered. After all the years of hearing people speak passionately (and variantly) about Hell I was hardly going to pass up the chance of seeing for myself. Not when there seemed to be a decent chance of getting out again.
I set my hand against the wide white door. It didn’t stir. I put my foot on the threshold. Still no movement. I stepped through, balancing on my toes, ready to leap back if the door showed signs of slamming. It didn’t move. Looking back through it I saw an empty field; they had left me to my folly, or I had left them to theirs, whichever way you cared to think of it.
Looking ahead I saw a long flight of shallow stairs with green textured treads. A shaft of sunlight stretched down them, proof that the door was still open.

150 said...

...not an improvement, unfortunately, since what you did was shoehorn the expected emotion and then instantly dismiss it. The overall tone of the story is still "Goin' to Hell; no big." The word choices and sentence structures indicate that the narrator finds this trip unimpressive, so that's exactly how I am led to find the trip.

_*rachel*_ said...

Make your changes from the earlier version, not this one.

Evil Editor said...

There's no need to include the part where you ask the unidentified people if the door will close; you show that you're concerned about this later on.

Not clear why you think there's a decent chance of getting out again. If you could get out this way, wouldn't there be a stream of people coming up the stairs?

Mother (Re)produces. said...

I want to know who "they" is. Some emotion coming from them might give us a better idea of how we should be reacting to this rather extraordinary situation and also give us a clue as to why the narrator is so blasé. And who the narrator is. Is this some little kid who thinks she on a dare? Like ringing old man Cuttlefish's doorbell? Is that why there's not much fear?

This could work if it's like, "you wouldn't believe this, but the entrance to hell is right behind the seven-eleven on South st.! No, really! The doors wide open, but no one ever comes out..." and then explain all these things in the course of the story.

Otherwise, I don't really know who "I" is, who "they" are, or what prompted the person to visit hell now, today... a character we could latch onto would be fab, cause the idea is cool.

Joanna Hoyt said...

Hmm. Thanks again. Retrying--don't know if this makes it better or worse:.

(Note to EE: actually, people could get out by the staircase if so inclined. The narrator spends a large art of the story figuring out why they're not so inclined.)
***
They sounded pleased with their own importance as they warned me to stay away from the little white building at the field’s edge, which was built over the head of the stairway to Hell.
“To Hell?” I asked. “Truly? How do you know? What...what's it really like, down there?”
Everybody knew that it was Hell, apparently. It was just what Hell was supposed to be. Of course they hadn’t gone to see; it wasn’t a place for good people like them--nor for a nice young woman like me, either. I was to stay away from it, and that was all there was to it. They didn’t seem to feel any need to know what Hell was, or why it was there, or how people got there, or whether it was their choice to remain there. I suppose if God had come down to earth in a blaze of glory they would have said “Right, we heard about that” and gone about their business.
The green door of the building stood open to the sunlight. I stood just outside, looking down the wide green stairs. I heard only my quick breaths, smelled only my nervous sweat. This part looked safe enough; maybe I could just go down far enough to see what was really going on. If only the door would stay open...

Evil Editor said...

To me it's a lot better this way. I might make a few minor changes to see if it sounded tighter this way:


They sounded so pleased with their own importance, warning me to stay away from the little white building at the field’s edge, built over the stairway to Hell.

“To Hell?” I said. “Are you kidding? How do you know; have you been down there?”

Everybody knew that it was Hell, apparently, but nobody had gone to see. They didn’t seem to care what Hell was, or how people got there, or whether they could walk out if they felt like it. Heck, if God came down to earth in a blaze of glory they probably would've said, “Yeah, we heard about that,” and gone about their business.

I stood just outside the door, looking down the wide green stairs. I heard only my quick breaths, smelled only my nervous sweat. This part looked safe enough; maybe I could just go down far enough to see what was going on. If only I could be sure the door would stay open...