I shared the first version this story on here a long, long time ago and got some really smart feedback which I didn't use very well. To be frank, at the time I didn't know how. The first version had a lot of gaping structural flaws that seemed too big to be worth fixing. So instead I started over. Here's the first scene of the piece. I'm curious to hear how the intro reads and whether or not it's working - it seems like it's almost there but is still a little wonky. This is the beginning of something much larger, so if you guys like it I'll post some of the next few sections.
Here came a back-kick. Lloyd dodged. Black shoes on a black floor; they'd be easy to miss if not for the orange pants. Or a color like orange. It was hard to tell. Light here seemed to come and go as it pleased, flitting in and out of people's bodies. He side-stepped through them but his rhythm was off now. Felt awkward. Kept pressing on, pushing.
It took him a few seconds to find the groove again. Once he had the groove passing through was simple and elegant. This was a fine art he had perfected. Step, walk, stop, change, step, walk, dodge. Keep focus. He watched for groups of feet and where they were going. Not much traction here. And it was all difficult in motion. He especially watched for high heels. These could be dangerous.
Hair or cloth flew into his face. He whirled around to get it off. Did a step backwards. Turned around again and slipped between some couple.
He looked up at his destination, made sure he was headed in the right direction. There must have been others who thought it a good time to hit the bar, because he couldn't see it anymore. It was obscured by bodies. They all seemed so tall. But there was a temporary lighting scaffold overhead that cast a dim blue down on shirts and napkins. This led the way. The crowd started to fray and thin out here; the going was easier and he moved more freely. Dropped the rhythm. Took up more space. Reached for a breath before he squeezed in to order.
He started to fumble for his wallet but thought better of it. Tonight was free for him. Some hurried blonde was bartending. She leaned over and shouted something. Lloyd shouted back his order. She disappeared. The guy next to him hustled toward the dance floor and three young hounds jammed into the space he left. They had gel in their hair and were laughing. They ordered shots. Lloyd's whiskey came. It was dyed a lovely shade of tangerine. He jostled his way out of the huddle and took a sip.
This could be a lot of fun but Lloyd couldn't take the sweetness. Even in the open it was overpowering. The air was filled with sour sweat and perfume and there were strange sticky odors fuming off sugary cocktails. Someone had put something in everyone's drink. It had to have been planned. The makeshift bar sat on a raised platform and Lloyd was tall enough now that he could look out onto a sea of martini glasses and tumblers. They glowed in the dark. Each one gyrated in the darkness to its owner's groove. He could see specks of half-light on lapels and deep v-necks, hairy chests and cleavage where the dayglo booze had spilled. It was too thick to breathe.
But the party was contained. There were railings and raised thresholds to confine it. Past the bar the planners hadn't bothered to roll out a temporary floor. The wood deck of the yacht was exposed. There had to be some place to escape to. Lloyd looked for higher ground.
He withdrew a pack of cigarettes from the left inside pocket of his suit jacket. Smacked the pack against his palm twice, took one out and lit up. There were fewer people up on the top deck. The sea breeze drifted in sharply. It was good air to smoke in. He took a deep drag.
From up here the party seemed less anarchic. He had enough of a vantage point to pick apart the people from the flashing lights and sound. They organized themselves in circles that drifted together. Circles begat more circles, different circles. Figure eights. People would separate into couples occasionally, only to be brought back into another fold. Narrow human corridors formed: stiffer arteries where lonely souls could go to and from the dancefloor trafficking drinks or full bladders. There was something poetic about it: one benevolent beat, bringing everyone together.
Someone was on the stairs.
“Put that thing out.”
He ashed out his cherry on the railing and turned to look. It was Howard. Two shimmering trickles of sweat ran down his forehead. Howard had been promoted around the same time he realized he was going bald; he had shaved his head a few months ago and doubled down on his workout regime. The look wasn't quite working yet.
“Didn't know you smoked, Lloyd.” Howard was smiling.
“I'm a secret smoker.”
“Well no more. And anyway I've got something better for you.” Howard fished around his inside pocket and withdrew a pair of cigars. He offered Lloyd one. “I'm celebrating tonight Lloyd. I want you to be a part of it. It's a grand occasion.”
Howard had a nervous energy. Lloyd tried to calm the waters. “Well I wouldn't quite call it that. More of a headache that's over.”
Howard chuckled. “This one definitely could have gone worse than it did though. I'll be honest Lloyd, you did a great job. You were handed some terrible circumstances, but the band showed up – well, most of it – and they played the shows, everyone got paid and went home. We wouldn't be having this party any other way.”
“The tour got cut short.”
But Howard insisted. “They've already played Madison Square Garden, what else is there? It all ties together, Lloyd. I'm being serious here, take the compliment.”
“Thanks Howard. Where's the band? I haven't seen them.”
“Some deck, some room. Captain's quarters? I don't know. It's a big boat,” He paused, “and your job is done, Lloyd. You don't have to care. Celebrate, will you?”
“Sorry. It takes me a while to decompress.”
“I get it. Understandable. Here, sorry, but give me that back for just a second.” Lloyd handed the cigar back. Howard flicked out an old pair of bronze clippers and got to work.
“My dad gave me these, can you believe that? Anyway, listen - ” Howard paused, adjusting his grip, “Celebrate. I've got big news for you. There's a big fish trying to swim across the pond. We're talking about a full North American tour. Start out in Los Angeles, New York, maybe Montreal after that, hit the big coastals and, if things really heat up, move into the flyovers.” He twisted his wrist and crunched down on the clipper. “Major stuff. They're not big over here yet but with the market going the way it is there's a lot of money to be made. People are calling them a zeitgeist.”
“It's a German thing. The 'it' band, but more important than that. Like Elvis or something. Here's your cigar back. Anyway they're huge overseas. People are saying they're way ahead of their time and if they are it means we've got a steady client. Now they're arty, so the startup cost is going to be high. But this could really seal us for a long time.” Howard pulled out a zippo. “Let me light that for you.”
Lloyd started to inhale like he would a cigarette, then remembered what he was doing.
“Lloyd, this could really make us. I mean it. If we can make this thing work it will be big news. Hell, not just for us, the whole town. And I think you're the guy to do it.”
Lloyd took another puff. He was apprehensive. “Well forgive me Howard but who are we talking about?”
“I know you're going to balk here but stay with me.”
Howard edged closer to him and paused for effect. His eyes darted to the far corners of the deck and then back to Lloyd. “Maybellina.”
Lloyd furrowed his brow. “Really?” He grabbed his drink and took a sip. “From Europe?”
“It's incredible, I know!” He gave Lloyd a little push on the arm.
“Howard I'm honored. But – you want this on my desk?”
“I have the utmost confidence in you, Lloyd. You're smart, you're adaptive, you're hands-on and not afraid of cold calls. This is difficult stuff. You're going to need to pull together a lot of people to make this thing work.”
“But it's pop. They're a pop group.”
“Well I wouldn't want you to get bored, Lloyd!”
Lloyd was trying to tread gently. “This is amazing. But we've got guys that worked with Britney and Christina. I do rock stuff, you know that. I'm sure I can do the job but am I really the most suitable person for this? I don't know the group and, I dunno, but wouldn't Lorenzo or Mia sink their teeth into something like this?”
Howard didn't waver. “Of course they would. And then they would promptly gently caress it up. Mia's too blunt and Lorenzo would fold under pressure. This isn't straight pop, Lloyd, nothing is anymore, and you know what I saw out of you on this last job? Finesse. That's what we need here.”
“Well poo poo.” Lloyd cracked a wry smile and reached for his drink.
“Drink and be merry, my friend. Don't let me give your stomach butterflies. Like I said. Let's celebrate. Can I ask you a question though?”
“One thing at a time, Howard. Let this sink in for me.”
“No more business. Do you like blondes?”
Lloyd raised an eyebrow. Howard pressed on. “Seriously. Do you like them?”
“I, uh. I don't really have a preference.” Lloyd didn't think about hair that much. Wasn't his job.
“A man of all shapes and colors I see. I see and I like. Listen, some papzies found out about the first afterparty, so there's a new one. Speaking of Lorenzo actually. Guy's quick. Anyway, I'll see you there.” He handed Lloyd a business card and beelined for the stairs. There was an address handwritten on the back side.
“Thanks Howard. I'll see how I'm doing.”
“Good good. We're conferencing tomorrow.”
Lloyd shouted after him: “What?” But Howard was already halfway down the stairs.
“I'll shoot you an email. Don't worry about it.”
*PUNCH* fucked around with this message at Feb 13, 2013 around 22:56
|# ? Feb 13, 2013 22:51|
|# ? May 23, 2013 02:30|
I am absolutely an amateur at writing, so my opinion might not be the most valid. The first paragraph was confusing to me because it made me think the story was starting off with a fight scene. As it stands the intro is a little hard for me, personally to get into, but I feel like it might have potential if I could see where it leads. You seem to be good at setting a scene though.
I like your dialogue, It felt realistic enough, and I could hear the words being said by real people. I am curious about what happens next.
I'm sorry I couldn't be more helpful.
Would you possibly consider giving my short story a read? http://forums.somethingawful.com/sh...hreadid=3534062
Behold! A Elk! fucked around with this message at Feb 15, 2013 around 23:29
|# ? Feb 15, 2013 23:26|
I agree that your opening line is not worth the confusion. I know some readers will get a little "aha!" moment when they figure out what's going on, but as an opener I personally found it kind of gimmicky.
In the first half you do a great job of conveying Lloyd's strange sense of distance and detachment with your descriptions of the scenery (and this comes up again nicely when Howard asks him his opinion of blondes) but then you have lines like:
But the party was contained. There were railings and raised thresholds to confine it.
There was something poetic about it: one benevolent beat, bringing everyone together.
This stuff really muddles the waters for me - are these Lloyd's thoughts? Is our narrator suddenly getting sentimental on us? Honestly, I wasn't sure what to think about these lines and they aren't really interesting enough on their own to warrant inclusion next to your stronger physical descriptions. You don't need to bang the reader over the head with thematic summaries when your scenery descriptions can convey these ideas for you.
In the second half, the dialogue and between Lloyd and Howard goes on for a while, but it's kind of expository and eventually it gets a little boring. You start things off with a nice description of Howard and the cigar exchange, but most of the dialogue is just floating heads. Where is the body language? I'd suggest that you cut out the boilerplate lines ("furrowed his brow" & "raised his eyebrow" especially) and give us some character-building moments instead - does Howard nervously wipe his forehead? Does Lloyd know how to hold a cigar? etc.
The dialogue also causes a few problems for me. For instance, I don't buy that Lloyd would say things like "It takes me a while to decompress" and then not know what the word zeitgeist means. Both characters (but especially Lloyd) need to come through a little stronger, for instance I had trouble understanding Lloyd's reluctance to take a big job and then his seeming attempt to argue his boss out of the decision. How would someone that unambitious end up working with a major firm in the first place?
Overall, this intro. got me interested in Lloyd, which is great for first scene, but I think the second half could be a little stronger. Why does this strangely detached killjoy work in such an outgoing industry (and with rock groups, no less)? What causes him to be so demure about the opportunity his boss is presenting to him? Does Howard see him as a reliable friend or an aloof, calculating technocrat who won't screw up his next-big-thing? If you answered some questions like these in your head and then rewrote the dialogue, I think more genuine character would come through.
TheresNoThyme fucked around with this message at Feb 18, 2013 around 01:02
|# ? Feb 18, 2013 00:56|