HH Com Rd 2 - #42 (604)

hook here

Alone In A Dark Alley

Blood is surreal.

It runs thick like motor oil; feels sticky like wet paint. An open pool of blood on the ground just doesn't look like it ever could have been coursing cleanly through capillaries nearly as thin as a hair just a few moments beforehand... especially when those capillaries belong to you.

I don't want to believe that the stuff beneath my feet is mine. I don't want to look at the gash in my left arm that the stuff is coming from, or hear the sickly viscous dripping of the still open wounds continuing to feed the puddle. I don't want to feel the fragments of brick clinging to my face as I lean in tight against the wall. I don't want to feel the weight of the gun in my right hand.

I don't want to look back at the body of the complete stranger whose brains I splattered across the same wall I'm now leaning against, just a few feet and a few moments back.

I don't want any of this to be real. It can't be real. I can see this happening to spies and soldiers and maybe the occasional cop, but a freelance writer? Not a chance. Couldn't even sell it as a cheap script.

But that doesn't change the fact that I'm here in an alley, bleeding like a hemophiliac's nightmare. Nor does it change the fact that just around the corner, there are more people waiting to help the blood flow faster.

Maybe I'll be lucky and find out that this is some sort of lucid dream brought on by bad screeners and too much to drink once I wake up back in my apartment. On the other hand, how much luck can a guy have if he's already got a huge gash in his arm, another one across his forehead, and only one bullet left in a gun he didn't even know how to shoot until a few hours ago?

If it weren't for the fact that I still don't believe that this is happening and have therefore cast myself as the only hero left in this script, I'd probably be thinking that I'm fucked.

As it stands, I still might be.

A Dark And Stormy Night.

Soaked to the skin.

Vivid little phrase, isn't it? Four little words, but they tell a story, paint a picture, chill the nerves, and maybe even give off a few scent molecules. That said, though, there are times when those four little words just do not do the real life experience justice.

Take the night it all began, for example.

When people who've never been here say that it rains all the time in Vancouver (which isn't true, by the way; sun-drenched Miami gets pretty much the same amount of rainfall), they usually paint themselves a picture that involves torrential downpours and sidewalks crowded with people carrying umbrellas while the sky flashes angrily every few seconds to the sound of gods having fist fights in the clouds. As it turns out, this picture is usually wrong. Sure, there are the occasional gales of wind, but for the most part, the rains are soft, and electrical storms tend to be all thunder and little else, to the point where lightning still makes the news. Come to think of it, I've lived here for years, and I've never even owned an umbrella.

That night, though, I definitely could have used one.

It had been pleasant all day: blue skies and sunshine and what most people ironically enough call room temperature. A poncho or a windbreaker just in case? Surely you jest! A t-shirt, jeans, and sneakers sans socks will do just fine, thanks, or so I thought, and had my day ended with dinner at Westminster Quay, I would have been right. But no, there was the Skytrain trip home that I had failed to consider; or rather, the sudden appearance as I took that trip of a menacing cloud bank that the weatherman had failed to warn me about on the news at noon. The sky had gone completely dark by the time I made Commercial Drive, and when I popped my head out from underground after getting off at Granville, the sidewalk had started to get wet.

That scream of real pain is brought to you by Miss Snark, noir lover, who LOVED your hook, and actually LOVED the prologue and then..then,....you took her poor little eyeballs and gave them WEATHER. Rain no less.

Miss Snark is going to hunt you down. She's going to lasso you with Brady Westwater's leftover lariat. She's going to heave you into the vat along with the previously mentioned Mr. Westwater. She's going to leave you there, being stirred by Vespa riding thugs until you come to your senses.

Why this doesn't work: you've set the scene in the prologue. You've got us breathless with desire to see what happens. Then you open with the weather. You don't have to set someone on fire in chapter one but something has to happen. There needs to be a person, a sense of impending something. You can give us "it was a dark and stormy night" in two sentences. Then give us something ELSE.

Oh, Miss Snark is just faint with disappointment. Fortunately it's past noon so the gin pail has been refilled.

You're a good writer. Get rid of all that exposition and show us your goodstuff.


Anonymous said...

I read this and said, "huh?" I read Snark's comments and said, "HUH?" One of us needs to get out more.

It ain't me.

alternatefish said...

I think maybe one paragraph about the weather is ok. ie:
"Soaked to the skin.

Vivid little phrase, isn't it? Four little words, but they tell a story, paint a picture, chill the nerves, and maybe even give off a few scent molecules."

That's clever. I like that. But then something needs to happen. Please. Based on the prologue and hook, I want to know what happens. Umbrellas-- not so happening.

Anonymous said...

The first bit was really great; you convey the terror of the moment very effectively by getting us so deeply into the main character's head.

I liked the second bit only because I'm a Vancouverite also. Very cool to read about one's home town!

My brain rebelled when the MC said s/he hadn't owned an umbrella in years, however. Living here?! I don't own a proper rain jacket or boots, but I'm more likely to forget my wristwatch than my umbrella. I can't imagine any Vancouverite going for long without one.

Of course, the majority of the planet wouldn't have that quibble, and if you slice out the rainy bits the way Miss Snark wants you to, it doesn't matter anyway. :-)

Inkwolf said...

Well, even the weather is well-written. :p

But I agree, less weather, more about how you ended up painting the town red and brain-gray.

Beautiful Food Gardens said...

"That night, though, I definitely could have used one."

Up to that, I like. But then you gotta tell us why. Please.

A Paperback Writer said...

Actually, I rather liked the teaser that makes me want to keep reading, but it looks like I'm in the minority.
Obviously you write well. Good luck with this.

Anonymous said...

The canonical example of the Best Novel Opening With Weather is William Gibson's classic SF masterpiece, Neuromancer. The weather in the opening is exactly one sentence. "The sky above the port was the color of television tuned to a dead channel."

Mark said...

Well geez, it's good weather work but there's not enough time to get on with anything else before the ax falls around here.

writtenwyrdd said...

Author, the writing in the prolog is super fantastic. Make that Chapter 1's beginning. Listen to Miss Snark, who will probably hurt you if you don't. This is great stuff (the prolog).

Leah said...

I still liked this. There's probably a better place to start, but I love the writing anyway. I'm dying to read on.

Crystal Charee said...

I liked the prologue too. You lost me at chapter one. I don't want to know how it started. The prologue didn't make me care that much. But I do want to know what happens next. So either start with the prologue as your first chapter, or give something else in the prologue that will make me like and/or care about the character enough to read through the backstory.

Interesting start followed by immediate backstory seems to be a trend, and a really annoying one at that.

McKoala said...

I was reading and happy and then I thought 'no, no the weather!' The prologue was good, the tantalising is great, but please, please not the weather next.

Good writing, though.

McKoala said...

I also wasn't sure about the 'hemophiliac's nightmare' phrase. To me that wasn't particularly apt, or funny.

Twill said...

I have to say, that the prologue was awesome. And I would stick around for a chapter of backstory, as long as something was happening.

Weather aint it.

In fact, I got the distinct impression that the narrator was sitting back, grinning his ass off knowing that his hook had set and he could waste as much of my time as he wanted talking about the weather.

However, the prologue was written with an immediacy that doesn't allow me to *believe* that the narrator would think he had a lot of time to waste on a flashback. There, the guy who wrote such a wonderful tense prolog scene has lost his credibility with the reader, because the things don't fit together internally.

Bet you can fix it - you've got mega talent. Otherwise it wouldn't have hurt poor Miss Snark so badly to hear about umbrellas.

Unknown said...

The prologue is great. And the IDEA of a snarky look at the weather. Just lasso out about 75% of the words in that section.

Hell... I like it so much I'll even lend you my lasso if you get your guy to retrieve my spurs for me.

Anonymous said...

After I read this again. I think the author cut to the weather because s/he's not sure there's enough blood left in the protagonists to last the entire book. Especially since, "around the corner," there's more hemorrhage waiting.

And, I suppose there's symbolism in dripping rain, dripping blood and soaked to the skin. Actually, when you think about it, we're all soaked to the skin in our own blood --- maybe we're all just... blood balloons! (gives new meaning to the phrase, "Watch out for pricks)!

Haste yee back ;-)

Fuchsia Groan said...

This is good writing, but for me the problem isn't the weather per se. It's the fact that the narrator seems to be in love with his own voice-- hence the long, convoluted sentences through which he makes us wade as he gleefully shoots down our assumptions about Vancouver rain. There's a market for this type of verbose, smarty-pants voice, at least in literary fiction (see Bruce Wagner's The Chrysanthemum Palace, also narrated by a writer). But I'm kind of over it, and since the narrator's a writer, I'm dreading the million and one cute little self-reflexive comments he may go on to make, comparing his story to pulp fiction. "It was a dark and stormy night" is funny, but this type of stuff quickly becomes overkill.

On the other hand, if the self-aware monologue soon got drowned in actions and interactions with other characters, I'd read on...