1.07.2007

Hh Com Rd 2 - #18 (320)

Hook here


Nick pressed himself back into the armchair vaguely remembering - through the fog of panic - that dogs could smell fear, or possibly that was horses. No, he was pretty sure it was dogs that could smell fear, in which case he must positively reek. Laura had stepped out of the living room to make coffee, and Sam had turned instantly from Lassie to Cujo, like Laura had flipped a switch on her way out. He seemed to be all teeth now, teeth and spit and pinned back ears which spoke to a part of Nick's brain so ancient he'd never even met it before. It told him succinctly that he was to stay still, preferably still enough to pass for dead. He was doing his best, because he had never seen so many teeth in one mouth, and he really didn't want to
find out if they were as sharp as they looked. He was too scared even to call out to Laura, in case Sam took that as an act of aggression. He probably wouldn't use the word scared to Laura, they just hadn't been together that long yet, and he liked her, far too much to make himself sound like a big wuss over her dog. To be fair, Sam had never really warmed to Nick, but both he and Laura had assumed that it was merely a matter of time, of Sam getting used to Nick, but he was beginning to doubt that now. In fact with each passing date, and weekend, and night stayed over, Sam seemed to hate his guts even more.

"Okay, here you…Oh God, Sam get down, get down," Laura commanded ineffectively when she returned to the room. She set the coffee down on the mantelpiece and dragged Sam away by his collar. She manoeuvred him, still barking blue murder, into the kitchen and shut the door,
which muted the snarling a little. She turned back to Nick and smiled nervously. "Um…I…he's never done that before," she said.

Nick raised an eyebrow, and held out a hand, pulling Laura onto his lap when she took it. He buried his face in her long blonde hair.

"He's never liked me," he muttered into it.

"Well, well, no, I know," Laura agreed reluctantly. "But then he's never had to share me before. I think he's jealous, that's all."

Nick sighed gently. He was finding himself dreading the end of every date because of Sam. It was really only because the good times were so good that he hadn't already jumped ship, that and his bloody-minded determination not to be beaten by a damn dog. He tightened his hold on Laura's waist, and she responded by resting her head on his with a sigh of her own, running her fingers through the hair at the nape of his neck. The cacophony from behind the kitchen door had not abated at all and the pleasant euphoria of their successful date was leaking
away with every angry bark.

"Just ignore him," Laura suggested but Nick could tell from her tone that even she knew that it was ridiculous advice. "Do you want your coffee?"

She didn't wait for an answer, just stood and retrieved the two cups from the mantelpiece, switching the television on as she passed in a vain attempt to counter the noise from the kitchen. She handed Nick his cup and perched on the arm of the chair again, smiling ruefully at
him over the edge of her own mug.

"How long do you think it'll take him to get bored and shut up this time?" Nick shouted over the combined noise, and Laura's face crumpled and she shrugged.

"I don't know," she said, sounding close to tears. "But he sounds to me like he's planning to try and beat his personal best of four hours without taking a break."

"I think I should probably go home," Nick suggested. "This is not going to work."

Laura's face closed off at that, her eyes hard and cold. She nodded, a tight small movement and levered herself up off the chair with little of her usual grace. It took Nick a moment to understand what it was that had upset her and caused the change.

"Just tonight," he said. "I just mean I don't think a night of lying awake listening to Sam barking is a good idea on a school night. For either of us."


This is rotund writing. You've got a dog barking like crazy, but these long ass sentences and paragraphs make the pacing glacial instead of urgent. The rhythm and pace of your writing has to match what you're talking about or it's like swimming in mud.

My comments for the hook said you'd have to show me great writing. This isn't there yet.

15 comments:

LPA said...

Author, I thought this was charming. Query widely.

I Said said...

Be careful of inconsistencies such as this: "No, he was pretty sure it was dogs that could smell fear, in which case he must positively reek." Whether it's dogs or horses has no relationship to how strong he smells. If you're trying to say that that's why the dog is so "on" him, it doesn't work either.

It could be good stuff; you just need to either have someone else go over it one more time or give it some serious editing yourself.

Anonymous said...

This made me wonder: If her dog is psycho (sorry, KY), why can't they go back to his place after their dates?

Michele said...

I liked the very start with the dog, but then it didn't seem to go anywhere. Nick walking out while the dog is barking might make sense later on, when we're rooting for him to stay, but not so much at the start.

Could the dog bite Nick? Or at least lunge at him, and she walks in as Nick is beating back the dog? Something to up the conflict.

Regarding word choice, I know the meaning of "cacophany" and "abate" but they don't seem like the every day language of Nick, unless you change the rest of his language to make him more of an egg-head.

dana p said...

I liked the hook & I think this has a lot of potential. However, that long first paragraph just about had me cross-eyed. One possible way to rework it would be:

Nick pressed himself back into the armchair vaguely remembering - through the fog of panic - that dogs could smell fear, or possibly that was horses. No, he was pretty sure it was dogs that could smell fear, in which case he must positively reek.

Laura had stepped out of the living room to make coffee, and Sam had turned instantly from Lassie to Cujo, like Laura had flipped a switch on her way out. He seemed to be all teeth now, teeth and spit and pinned back ears which spoke to a part of Nick's brain so ancient he'd never even met it before. It told him succinctly that he was to stay still, preferably still enough to pass for dead. He was doing his best, because he had never seen so many teeth in one mouth, and he really didn't want to find out if they were as sharp as they looked.


Delete the remainder of the first paragraph, & pick up with Laura's voice as she enters the room. You don't lose anything that way, and the great tension you've established with the hostile dog doesn't have a chance to dissipate.

BuffySquirrel said...

Why don't they just go to his place instead?

Fuchsia Groan said...

I have to agree with MS-- from the hook, this has clear potential, but you need to pare down the writing. I don't always think showing beats telling, but this is one case where I do. I had a previously abused dog who went vicious and attacked me in my own home-- the last thing I was thinking about was the primitive brain, etc. Rather, the primitive brain was in charge, saying, "TEETH! SNAPPING AT YOU! RUN!" I say focus on what the dog's doing, and from that let us assume the guy's reaction. (Dogs have a lot of different hostility/aggression signals... staring, growling, hackles raised, barking at various pitches, etc. There's a lot you could describe here.)

Anonymous said...

Try breaking up the paragraphs more.

In the middle of thinking he might be mauled by Cujo, is he really going to use phrases like the 'ancient part of my brain', 'act of agression'? Those kinds of phrases feel like after the fact descriptions that a character with a certain attitude or personality might use to describe something that happened as opposed to what they'd be thinking when it happened.

Good luck. I liked the premise of your hook.

A Paperback Writer said...

I'm quite interested in finding out what happens next. You did keep my interest, and I thought that his internal torment in the first paragraph was heightened by the length of the sentences -- sort of how long it felt to him while the dog was growing angrier, rather than "real time."

Word Doctor said...

Economy of words, writer. You are telling me way too much...let my imagination have some fun.

I love the scene--poor guy afraid the dog's gonna bite his ding-a-ling off which he may need later--but take me out of Nick's head and give me some beats (action), and/or have Nick try and "talk" to Cujo:

"That's a good boy...that's a good--okay no petting right now--good boy."

Just an idea, but I agree with Snark. Too much narration, not enough imagination. (Damn, I wish we could use "Em dashes" on here, Snark.)

Anonymous said...

I had to check the hook - Nick isn't the main character, Rob is. I'm not keen on novels where the story starts with some other person than the mc. Or is this going to be multiple viewpoint? The writing would have to be clearer (and the structure under control) to keep me reading.

Zany Mom said...

Too much telling, not enough showing. This felt a bit flat to me. Here's a Cujo-like dog snarling at Nick, and I'm not even afraid for him. And Laura didn't even seem that concerned.

McKoala said...

LOL Buffy.

I got lost in that first long para, sorry. There seemed to be a lot of thinking and not much action. I think it could be trimmed down for more immediacy.

Anonymous said...

Thank you to everyone who has commented and especially Miss Snark for holding this crapometer in the first place. I have lots of food for thought to take into the next rewrite now, which is daunting, but good!

Thanks to everyone else who contributed hooks and pages too, I have learned loads from this exercise, and am very grateful.

Anonymous said...

Hey, author, just on the chance you might peek in here again, I wanted to add a couple of thoughts.

The long sentences, advanced vocabulary, and scientific thinking show a person who's...perhaps a detached sort, or a scientist or some other sort of academic. If that's what you're going for, this is on the nose. This characterization, coupled with the mind's ability to stretch time during episodes of crisis, make his thoughts and inner dialogue appropriate and informative.

However, balance that with MS's statement that actual conversation must fit the circumstances, or have an interesting reason for the two not fitting.

So while his internal dialogue may be laconic and analytical, the action & external dialogue need to be influenced more by the vicious, barking, obnoxious dog that makes it nearly impossible for the humans to hear each other.

I thought this beginning was definitely above average. Good luck.