1.05.2007

HH Com Rd 2- #1 (27)

Hook here

Why?

The question screamed inside my brain.

Bouncing around in pinball fashion, rebounding and echoing, ever since the phone call.

I flopped down on the couch, vexed by self-inquisition.

Neither the brightly painted walls nor the peeling mural on the ceiling responded to my query.

I didn't want to be here. It was too eccentric, too loud, too…everything. Sensory overload inundated me.

As my eyes drifted aimlessly around the room, a wave of revulsion crashed over me.

WHY?

Why to everything. Why was I here? Why had my father left me this God-awful place? Why were he and my mother dead?

An intense urge to escape overpowered me. I felt confined, imprisoned by this noisy, malodorous space. If I stayed another minute my head would explode. Grabbing my purse, I flew down the stairs and out the door. I'd run about twenty steps when a heavily accented man's voice warned, "Better lock your door! Thieves."

Startled, I stopped and turned so quickly I tripped over my own feet.

Oh God, why am I such a klutz?

Embarrassed by my awkward behavior and ignorance, I fumbled in my bag for keys, forgetting that the electronic door lock requires using the keypad, then glanced up to see who was issuing the admonition.

A short Italian man, who looked just like Mario from the video game, stood on the stoop of the adjacent building, smoking a cigarette. He scowled at me, hands on protruding hips.

Great, the Unwelcome Wagon. The strong smell of garlic drifted out his open door, assaulting me.

I hate garlic.

I blushed and attempted a weak smile while heading back towards my door. "Umm, yeah…. Thanks."

Focusing on my own doorway, I took a few clumsy steps, feeling foolish about my neophyte urban conduct. Liz, you're in the big city now, I chided myself. Kansas City's River Market area is not your idyllic little Ozark horse ranch, where you never needed to lock the doors. Feeling guilty for not acknowledging my neighbor any further, I glanced back up to see his door slamming shut.

Screw him.

I felt drained; all my emotions spent.

Typing the code into the keypad, I was now protected from "thieves" (and with all that damned garlic, werewolves) . I got in my car and turned on the ignition. For a moment, I wanted to lay my head on my arms and sob. Instead, I breathed in, wrinkling my nose at the intruding pungency, and drove slowly away. The large wrought-iron gates of Mt. Washington Forever Cemetery flanked me as I passed through them. I didn't even remember driving here, but somehow I had arrived.

A calming sense of familiarity came over me, and I traveled up the steep, winding lane, releasing a deep sigh.

God it's beautiful here.

I got out of the car, and noticed a black SUV driving slowly along on the avenue below.

A chill ran down my spine, then I felt foolish for letting everything get to me. I didn't recognize it, or know the make and model, but I'm not good at identifying automobiles, despite having recently test-driven dozens of them.

"Did you read all the consumer reports baby girl?" Daddy had questioned over dinner.

"Of course, Daddy. The Nissan tested the highest."

A new automobile - my parents' college graduation gift to me.

"Pick a model?"

I nodded admission, lest Mama reprimand me for talking with food in my mouth.

Daddy said we were going to Kansas City, grinned at Mama, and, as he always did, started singing the old song:

"Goin' to Kansas City, Kansas City here I come," he crooned, using his fork as a faux microphone.

We all laughed, because Daddy couldn't sing worth a damn.

"But Daddy, there's a Nissan dealer in town," I said.

"Yes sweetie, but Dan Albright is a prick, and we're not buying a car from him."

I snickered, my brother Tom snorted and Mama rolled her eyes. "Jim, don't talk that way at the dinner table," she said, but she was trying to refrain from chuckling too.

"Alice, there are a lot worse things I could have called him, and you know it. Like…"

Mama swatted at him with her napkin. "Don't you dare! Not at the dinner table!" She smiled though, with a tender look in her eyes.

Memories flooded over me as I approached the gravesite. Two fresh mounds. The sense of melancholy many graveyard visitors experience did not engulf me though.



ok, this one is a flop.

It's over written starting from the first three sentences: The question screamed inside my brain. Bouncing around in pinball fashion,

and then there's this clinker: vexed by self-inquisition.
followed by this: Neither the brightly painted walls nor the peeling mural on the ceiling responded to my query.

I've stopped reading at this point.


Over writing-using too many words, using complete sentences in thoughts, and saying things twice is one of the biggest faults I see in writing I'm getting in the slush pile.

Pare DOWN.

You don't need Sensory overload inundated me to say "sensory overload". We infer inundated from sensory overload. Short sharp sentences communicate the feeling more than actual words.


14 comments:

soaraway said...

Although your story is about psychics this opening doesn’t work, it doesn't invite the reader into your world. Pick a different place to start, a moment that has more direct action or tension of some sort. A moment where the background to your story will start to come out naturally in what is happening. Then write it simply, don't try to be too dramatic with your verbs or throw everything at your reader, let them experience the situation and a little bit of what your mc feels. Keep at it you had an idea that hooked Ms S!

Anonymous said...

"... ever since the phone call."

This phone call seems to be the pivotal event, your MC evidently receiving some pretty bad news. Try starting there (only I'd prefer some method other than a phone call, maybe a sheriff delivering the message, something less impersonal). Let the reader learn along with the MC what the call portends.

And yeah, pare down the prose style.

Good luck.

j.c.

Anonymous said...

It reminds me of the time Joey (Friends) attempted to write a recommendation letter on behalf of Chandler and Monica and used a thesaurus on every word.

It has promise...your book. And kudos for even being asked for pages. But don't try so hard.

Anonymous said...

Please, take out the Italian man whose apartment stinks of garlic. Too outdated a stereotype.

Anonymous said...

I assume you are trying to build a "drama queen" voice for your p.o.v. character -- hence -- her word/syntax/phrasing choices and the repetition. But it is inconsistently and imprecisely done, and a hard voice to accompish without it quickly becoming annoying. I'd recommend starting with an event, maybe directly starting with the garlic interchange, and letting her "high drama" show through in what she says and does. Pare down, get rid of all the overly dramatic clunky or cliche phrasing, and don't feel the need for awkward sounding transisitonary phrases to start your sentences.

Anonymous said...

There's aLso such a passive feel here. 'Inundated me...' or 'I felt inundated by...'. Once or twice is okay, but lots of things are happening to your character without her being involved in the experience. One of the great things about first person is the ability to bring the protag dead centre. Don't waste it.

McKoala said...

I read all the way through and I wound up confused as to who was where and what was what and the whys and wherefores. Things seemed to happen before they happened. This is an example:

'Typing the code into the keypad, I was now protected from "thieves" (and with all that damned garlic, werewolves) . I got in my car and turned on the ignition.' Where was the car? Parked right outside her door? In an underground car park? It's a detail, I know, but it was enough to throw me. Liked the werewolf line, though. Then in the same para she gets to the cemetry - admittedly with no idea how she got there, but a para break might help.

I'm also reading this as you trying to pile into the first few paras that she's bereaved, she's moved and she's confused - and then you go into back story.

Could you start somewhere else and let all this seep in later?

Anonymous said...

The hook and the pages seem to have been written by two different people. What reeled me in with the hook is missing in the pages--in voice, plot, and pace.

Allowing for the fact that books and hooks are two different things, the leisurely pace of the pages are a jarring contrast to the hook.

I'm willing to wait for the good stuff as long as I trust that it's coming soon and I'm sufficiently entertained while waiting. Based on your hook, I suspect you're entirely capable of doing that. Your opening does not serve you here, is all.

~Rebecca Anne~ said...

I've read this several times to identify why I didn't enjoy it or how it can be fixed. The format seems cryptic with single over written sentences, one after another.
For a 1st person POV, the fluid perspective (potential) is lost in this structure, it's jarring. Try condensing, strip away unnecessary description as Miss Snark pointed out.
Give your MC a fluid believable voice, and you've got yourself a winner!
Good Luck

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Miss Snark, for the valuable tutoring with this example.
Author, don't sweat it. You can fix this.

jamiehall said...

To fix this, try a heavy dose of Strunk & White. "The Elements of Style" is the title.

thraesja said...

Nitpick note: Wolfsbane for werewolves. Garlic for vampires. Unless of course you are either introducing real werewolves which are sensitive to garlic, or you are establishing that your main character is ignorant of paranormal deterrents. Then it would work. I did like this sentence. It struck the right humourous chord.
The others are right about the pages, though. Too much repetition, a blatent stereotype (she instantly knows the man is Italian because he looks like Mario and smells like garlic), some clunky and passive phrases. It made it difficult to get to the end. Pruning the repeats, rewriting in active tenses, perhaps finding a new starting point, and having your garlicy neighbour just love garlic, rather than be instantly identified as Italian would help.
You seem to have good ideas, you just need to work at chiselling them out from the rest. Best of luck!

ello said...

Wow! Your hook and your opening pages are so different! I thought the hook was going to be a great action pack thriller. These pages sound like a whiny, self-indulgent, ignorant coming of age type book. If I were buying this book based by the hook, I would be throwing the book across the room thinking I'd been deceived - this may be particular to me because if I'm not hooked in the first 5 pages, I won't read the book anymore.

Couldn't have been more different. Your book is a thriller, right? Shouldn't we start with a thrilling action sequence? Even if this is a slow pot boiler thriller, you still need to start with something nail biting and then you can turn it down and build suspense.

Good luck.

Marti said...

Thank you for your comments. Having recovered from the ice storm and the ego-bruising here, I am making everyone an offer.

The entire book is blogged. Feel free to go read it there and see if you think it gets any better (or worse if that is possible - lol)

In my defense, the formatting is different, which might clear up some of the confusion certain commenters mentioned.

I agree the opening was clunky, and it has been edited for the revised version. I haven't had a chance to update the blogged version yet, but the excerpt at Lulu has been changed.

Foolheart that I am, I have entered the novel in the Blooker contest. Might as well expose as many folks as possible to the horror - lol

I will continue to write, because I love it. I am a successful columnist, so I know I have some talent. Plus I'm old as dirt, so it takes a lot more than a bad review to crush me - LOL!

Cheers and best wishes to Miss Snark and all of the brave souls who participated.