HH Com Rd 2 -#36 (518)

Hook here

On the urn downstairs someone's stuck up a newspaper clipping.


In a place like this, you always have to wonder--has someone put there for a joke, or to share information? I make myself a cup of tea and take it into the dining room. Neil the nightshift supervisor is smoking next to the open window.

"Who put the thing on the urn?" I say.

"What thing?"

"The UFO thing."

Neil looks at me like I just insulted his mother. He stubs his cigarette out and stalks off into the kitchen. He's sort of sensitive about anything to do with UFOs. No one knows why. One of the residents probably stuck up the clipping to get at him. He probably thinks I did it.

"It wasn't me," I call.

Mutter mutter.

"It wasn't!" Everyone blames me around here. Maybe because I'm the youngest, and the newest. That's what I tell myself, but really, it's because I'm the King Midas of bad luck. I pour out rice bubbles and milk. The rice bubbles looks just opened, but someone's taken the toy out of it already. Neil comes back in and burns the news article in an ashtray right in front of me.

"Lighten up," I say.

He just glares. Okay, so he has no sense of humor, but I knew that.

"Someone was moaning upstairs," I tell him.

"Fuck off." But he fucks off himself to go check. I pull a finger sign behind his back.

After I finish my breakfast I retouch the line I've drawn in blue pen around my wrist. Then I fix up the red pen around my other wrist, and the green and the black on each of my ankles. I know it looks nuts, but I've been on the straight and narrow for five months, so I'm not messing with any of my charms.

Shell necklace, check.
Charm bracelet, check.

Next, I check all the charms in all my pockets, even though I checked three times already before I left my room. I keep forgetting if I really did have my Ace of Spades in my other pocket. Not forgetting, exactly, but just not trusting. I'm sure it's there, but how can you *know* for sure? That's hard to explain to people, because most people are very sure about
everything. They do something, and it's done. They don't doubt it. I doubt everything.

Neil comes back and lights up a cigarette, watching me. It makes me nervous, so I go out on the front porch. Lurch is there, standing under the roof-bit, his duffle coat buttoned up to under his chin. We call him Lurch because his name is really George and there's two Georges. So George 'Lurch' is the big fellow who lives 16 hours a day (sometimes more) on the front porch; and George 'Orwell' is the skinny codger with the fetish about hidden cameras in the light fittings. George Orwell doesn't live here any more. But that's another story. I sit down on the top step and check my stuff without negative karma supervisors.

"You going to the clinic?" asks Lurch.

"Yeah. In a moment."

Paper rustles as he notes this fact in his notebook. Lurch takes his notes very seriously. As seriously as I take my charms. Neil's replacement arrives. Neil leaves. I want to leave, too, but I
still can't get my charms straight in my head. Two more residents leave. I'm out of time.

"Hey, Lurch. Did you see what I just did with the Ace of Spades?"

"You put it in your pocket, there."

Independent verification. I'm still not sure, not knowing-sure, but if I miss my appointment I'm sunk. I decide to walk in, even though the bus is free this close to the city. Buses in peak hour are full of business suits who cram away from me like I'm infectious. They can sense I'm bad luck.

When I arrive in the city centre most shops along the Hay Street Mall are still closed, and office workers are still homing in on the Terrace like abductees toward a spaceship. I've got a few spare minutes. I know I should go straight to the clinic, and wait for it to open. I know I'm
dangerous left to my own devices.

While I dither on the street corner, I'm attracted to the shiny posters in the DVD store near me.

This is the point where I fuck up.

This is all set up.
Nothing REALLY happens.
Of course I want to read on.

The reason this works is that the writing (which needs a good polishing) is vivid. We have the sense here that there is impending doom, and we get confirmation early ("this is the point where I fuck up"). The uncertainty of "what's going on here, who are these people" is GOOD.

The hook made it sound comical, but this doesn't sound comical at all. It sounds like we're inside the head of a functioning fruitcake. I'd read a partial on this to see how it works, but I'd have an eagle eye on that synopsis for plot.


writtenwyrdd said...

It sounds like he's living in a psychiatric halfway house. Excellent writing here, and I would have read on and on and on if it kept up this voice.

There are a few bits that might be edited. For example, you say Neil's replacement arrives. Why not say if he's a psych nurse or something? And an urn is often associated with someone's ashes. Is it really a vase? But these are just small quibbles to my way of thinking.

I would pick this up and read it based on your writing and the hook. No pun intended: Best of luck.

Marlo said...

Wow, this is so much better than the hook.

I wouldn't have even skimmed the first para of the book as seen in the hook, but this, this I would absolutely read more of.

I love the effortless world and char building, how things are strange and interesting in almost throwaway detail. That pulls me in very well, and the best part is it doesn't waste words and bore me / annoy me by explaining things.

I really *hate* when stories wreck themselves by not trusting me to understand what's happening, and half the word count is spent on bloat telling me what they've already told me.

It's also interesting that Mis Snark read this as 'fruitcake'. I read it as spec-fic. You know, that lit where weird things happen and people aren't crazy. Proof, I guess, that we just see what we're used to.

ObiDonWan said...

love it; I want the whole book.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, the hook turned me off, too. But I really like this opening. The strength really is that you don't over-explain; it makes me trust that you know what you're doing so I can forget the writing and get lost in the story.

I guess the big take away for you should be that you may be undercutting yourself with that hook. You need to properly identify the genre so readers/agents will know what they're getting into. Right now my guess is that this is set in the near future, but I'm not completely sure. You should spell that much out at least in your query.

Bella Stander said...

This is WAY better than the hook, which made my eyes glaze over. I found the writing funny; sure hope it was intentional.

I agree that this needs tightening and polishing. There should be more differentiation between patients and staff. At least I assume that's what they are; if they're not, then that needs tweaking too.

I also agree about the urn. Is it like the proverbial gun on the mantelpiece in Act 1 that goes off in Act 3, or is it just a decorative vase?

Anonymous said...

I thought the urn was a hot water urn rather than a repositary for ashes.

Better than the hook - I agree with the others there. I'd keep reading this.

McKoala said...

I like this; I like the fact that things aren't spelled out and yet are clear - or clear enough for the time being. I was yanked in by the lines and charms, from then on you had me.

Anonymous said...

This one works well to keep me actively reading, even though nothing has actually happened yet, because of how lively the characters are. Everyone in it has some kind of bizarre quirk, which suggests psychiatric halfway house without coming right out and saying it. All of the characters are interesting people who have a place in the narrative; at this point their place is mostly to develop the scenery, but I'd expect that they become plot-relevant characters later on in.

I'm reading these backwards and trying to pinpoint the differences between this one, #38 which didn't work, and #40 which did. I can't quite verbalize it yet, but it's been enlightening. ;)

Anonymous said...

She said your hook wasn't zippy, but the writing isn't either. It's better than that. It seems like a lot of authors are all using the same voice lately, which is annoying. I like this voice. It's engaging, and enjoyable, but at a slower pace than the rest. Nice. I'd read the whole book at this point.

I read this before I read the hook, by the way.

LadyBronco said...

I really, really like this!

Self-depreciating humor is something that I find a lot of writers do not convey very well, but this author has.

I really want to read more!

Anonymous said...

Delightful. I love how he takes things in stride like Lurch's notes and "independent verification." A great voice. I'd read on.

Mindy Tarquini said...

This writer grabbed me the pen lines on the character's wrist and ankle. After a bit, I realized they were protection, but why red? Why the other colors? What was the significance of the placement?

I'm also really hoping those items will be important. This chapter reads big, like all the details in it will come back later. If they don't, I'm going to be disappointed.

Anonymous said...

I'm with Marlo and the others who think this opening is much better than the hook.

I liked this opening.

Isn't the urn an old fashioned coffee maker? Or is it meant to be a vase? In any case, I don't think it matters-readers can fill that detail in themselves.

The writing is wonderful. The character is sympathetic.

Good luck.

Rhease said...

Wow. I liked this so much I read it twice. I'd definately read this from cover to cover if it continued in this vein.
Congrats, author, and look forward to seeing it in print soon :)

Angus Weeks said...

Author here.

I really appreciate the comments so far.

This has always been my preferred beginning for the story, but over time I've tried to write other, more 'action-packed' ones, since that is what agents/publishers seem to want.

I was going to submit one of these 'action' ones, then realised I'd never get a better opportunity to get opinions on my preferred, more low-key beginning.

So the fact that people can actually get past the dreaded set-up here and want to read on is way more heartening than anyone could realise.

As for the urn - I never thought about its double-meaning! Perhaps I need to make clear it is a water-boiler.

PS. Totally agree about my insipid clunky hook. Re-reading it, I wouldn't want to read that story, either. Nor is it the story I've actually written.

Anonymous said...

I liked this too, and wanted to read on. I agree it's better than the hook, which also made my eyes glaze over.

Anonymous said...

I assumed Neil is a resident not staff.

I haven't read the hook at all, and, based on the comments, I don't plan to.

There's a lot happening here and it unrolls smoothly and naturally: UFOs, mysterious notes, OCD stuff (inherently interesting and somehow portentious of big things to come), and trouble on the way. I'd read on to see where it goes.

Beautiful Food Gardens said...

"George Orwell doesn't live here any more."


I thought the urn might be for ashes, too, but I wasn't sure. I thought, maybe it's decorative or something. The ambiguity was great.

It's wacky, but I like it.

Anonymous said...

I've found myself skimming several of the 750s, but I read every single word of this and wished there were more.

I really liked 'George Orwell doesn't live here any more', too.

Georgiana said...

I liked this a lot, esp. this line:

In a place like this, you always have to wonder--has someone put there for a joke, or to share information?


Anonymous said...

It seems like most of the commenters so far have not lived in shared households full of uni students or paranoid dope smokers or unrepentant liars or unemployed drunks. I found these characters familiar to those I have shared houses with. I would read this story, unless your hook became the blurb on the cover.