Author Topic: First Paragraph  (Read 19615 times)

Offline herron

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Re: First Paragraph
« Reply #30 on: November 22, 2010, 10:12:29 PM »
Several paragraphs now ... I may have to do it in pieces.  It's just as well. Comments will help and I need them to come slowly.   ::) ;)


ALBERT

    It was late August, 1962, when I first saw Albert Parker. After all this time I still remember the year quite distinctly. It was my first teenage summer, life’s first great transition, and I had been waiting months for something special to happen, something magical. Something like having Marilyn Monroe show up on my doorstep. In my dreams she would ask me in her breathless whisper to take her. At the time, I wasn’t even sure what that meant. Hell, it didn’t matter. Just having her show up would have been enough, as long as the rest of the gang saw her. Of course, Marilyn never came to 722 Reichold Street in Brickdale. Albert did.

     It was a humid, hurt-your-lungs-on-a-deep-breath morning. A blistering sun was rising over the railroad switching yard at the far end of the street. Its orange glare filtered through exhausted-looking trees. Sinuous heat ribbons shimmered over the motionless freight cars, subtly defining their rusty shapes like so many slumbering beasts.

     I was already sitting on the curb under the big oak, trying to find relief in occasional humid puffs of air, when a battered gray panel truck pulled up. A tortuous squeal signaled its stop across the street. An angular middle-aged man slowly unwound from the driver’s seat. The sun lit the edges of his hair, short tight curls that were already turning gray, and gleamed brightly from the center of his balding crown.

     He stood with his hands firmly on his hips and stared past the collection of dents and rust on his old Chevy toward the old Cantwell place. He didn’t acknowledge my presence. He just stood with sunglasses perched on top of his head, chewing a toothpick and staring at that old white clapboard house.

     The Cantwell Place. No one thought of that old house as anything else. Cecil Cantwell, the only son of one of Brickdale’s founders, had built it and lived in it with his wife for more than seventy years. People in town knew where it was and used it as a landmark. “Meet you by Cantwell’s!”  Everyone knew that meant the east end of Reichold Street.

     Cecil had died the previous fall, about the time leaves were turning. The maple in front of Mrs. Murphy’s house was already a beautiful golden color the day I heard about his passing. I never knew exactly why he died. He was ninety-five and I presumed he just wore out. His wife, who had been a frail old stick anyway, followed him a few days before Christmas. The house had been empty since. Someone regularly mowed the lawn but no one tended the flowers, or pulled weeds, or repainted the shutters from the old can of Leaf Green #502 on the shelf in the garage.

     Then the Toothpick Man showed up.

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Offline herron

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Re: First Paragraph
« Reply #31 on: November 22, 2010, 10:44:27 PM »
... and it continues from there ....  8)



     I sat under the oak tree across the street and watched. My friends, Puz, The Twins and Sticks soon joined me. Nobody said very much. It was too hot.  “Wassup?”  Ken Pozanski’s question was slurred around a jelly doughnut. Puz was the fattest kid on the block, but he was also the strongest. He worked, unofficially of course, since he was underage, with his uncle at Barczak Cement. His job was lifting odd-lot orders of cinder block into the back of pickup trucks. His arms were more enormous and foreboding than his belly and he took no guff from the other kids.

     “Looks like it could be moving day,” I told him.

     “Cool!” The Twins said, together. Eleven months apart, Danny and Randy weren’t really twins. They didn’t even look alike. But it was uncanny how they always spoke in unison.

     “Neat-o!” Puz rasped, wiping jelly on his wrist. “Any babes?”

     “And just what would you do with babes?” sneered Billy Strate, the wiry blond kid everyone called Sticks.

     “Wouldn’t you like to know.”

     “Yeah, Puz,” smiled Sticks, “I would.”

     “Well, someday I’ll tell ya, Worm.”

     “Won’t hold my breath,” mocked Sticks.

     “Me either,” said both of The Twins.

     Puz was taking a step toward Sticks when a brown ’51 Hudson – the one that always looked to me like a giant metal bug – pulled up behind Toothpick Man. It rattled and spat dark smoke over the street as it finally shuddered to a stop. It seemed to wheeze, almost in relief, when the ignition was turned off.
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Offline 510bhan

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Re: First Paragraph
« Reply #32 on: November 23, 2010, 06:52:06 AM »
I really do like your style..casual and engaging - I feel as if I am being told the story and I can see the images very clearly...I don't know where any of these places are but I can imagine them now.

2nd paragraph posted
Hardly a thing irked me, perhaps this sentence sounded a little clumsy though:
His arms were more enormous and foreboding than his belly and he took no guff from the other kids.
Possibly it's the placement of it...maybe better after you mention that he was the strongest [two sentences earlier] and slightly rearrange those two.

Puz was the fattest kid on the block, but he was also the strongest. His arms were more enormous and foreboding than his belly and he took no guff from the other kids. He had a job, unofficially of course, since he was underage, lifting odd-lot orders of cinder block into the back of pickup trucks for his uncle at Barczak Cement. [That now sounds clumsy but I think the order of the ideas is better??????Something I'm sure you could fix, whatever way you approach it.]

Kids dialogue realistic - get a good idea of their characters already.

Thanks! :-* All JMO, disregard what doesn't suit/make sense.

Offline herron

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Re: First Paragraph
« Reply #33 on: November 23, 2010, 11:11:07 AM »
Needed to tie his strength-development, whatever, at that age, to the surreptitious job he held. However, I like the idea of the transposition.

Thanks.   :-*
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Offline KenFP

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Re: First Paragraph
« Reply #34 on: November 23, 2010, 01:50:44 PM »
Loved this! Definitely want to find out more about Albert! I was slightly confused whether this was written from a male point of view or a female as the fantasy was of Monroe but the subject compared was Albert. Then I realised you compared the summer, not the person, to Monroe. Maybe there is a way of avoiding this clash of ideas in the reader's mind?

You evoke an atmosphere beautifully though - can't wait for more!

Ken

Offline herron

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Re: First Paragraph
« Reply #35 on: November 23, 2010, 02:34:37 PM »
Loved this! Definitely want to find out more about Albert! I was slightly confused whether this was written from a male point of view or a female as the fantasy was of Monroe but the subject compared was Albert. Then I realised you compared the summer, not the person, to Monroe. Maybe there is a way of avoiding this clash of ideas in the reader's mind?

You evoke an atmosphere beautifully though - can't wait for more!

Ken

Thanks.  Thought the reference to Marilyn and "the gang" established gender ... but it's something to think about.   :)
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Offline herron

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Re: First Paragraph
« Reply #36 on: November 23, 2010, 03:44:38 PM »
... a little more ...

     Toothpick Man walked over to it. Strutted, really. He leaned into the Hudson’s open window, grabbed the woman driver by the back of her bleached-blonde head and kissed her. Then he opened the driver’s door. As she attempted to get out of the car he fondled her ample behind.  She jumped at his touch, her brow an angry furrow. “Cut it out, fool,” she spoke in quick, hushed tones and wagged her head in our general direction.  We all strained to hold our laughter.

     He looked toward the oak tree, apparently seeing the five of us for the first time. He made a loud clicking sound with his tongue, as if saying “shame on me,” and pulled his shades back down over his eyes. With slow, deliberate movements, he raised his right arm waist high, thrust his thumb into the air, pretended to pull a trigger and smiled at us. It must have been Toothpick Man’s way of saying hello.

     The woman shook her head in disgust and marched up onto the Cantwell porch, followed by two kids from the car. One a little boy; one a pretty girl I guessed was near our age. Getting out last was a boy, also about our age, with an unruly mane of auburn hair. He was solidly built with massive arms and a thick neck. By size alone he looked like a worthy opponent for Puz, only without the belly.

     His hair looked as if it had been sheared with a mower. He must have been asleep in the hot car as one side of it stood straight up in large cowlick, while the rest was plastered rather darkly to the side of his head. He looked like an angry clown.  He spotted us and fixed us with a glare. He stomped over, his gait almost a carbon copy of the Toothpick Man’s swagger.

     “What you sissies lookin’ at?” were the first words out of his mouth.

     I put out my hand. “Hi,” I said, “I’m Paul –“

     “Save it, asshole,” he interrupted. Surprised, Puz was suddenly coughing up moist little bits of doughnut. The angry clown-kid just looked at him.

     “My name,” the new kid said, “is Albert.” He looked at each one of us in turn. “Albert Parker.  Not Patton. Parker.  Patton’s my stepfather’s name, not mine.” His look seemed to be daring us to speak. “And it’s not Al,” he warned. “It’s Albert. Get it straight, asswipes.”

     “Whoa-a!” I stammered, withdrawing my hand. “Nice greeting. Who do you think you are, anyway?”

     His stare would have melted ice faster than the heat. ““Look,” he snapped, “I didn’t ask to be here, and I don’t answer no questions.” He looked at Puz, who was still coughing. “So don’t even think of asking.”  He practically spat the words at us, and when he took a step toward us we, as a group, all took a step back.

     “Besides, you all look like a buncha wuses to me.” He seemed to consider his statement for a moment. Perhaps he was really considering us. “Yeah,” he repeated. “Pansies and wuses.” He stuck out his chin and looked directly at Puz. “I don’t much like the looks of any of you.”

     I could see Puz bristle. No one in the neighborhood ever talked to the Puz that way. “You ain’t so hot your own self,” Puz said through clenched teeth.

     Stepping up to Puz and pushing his chest out, Albert said quietly, “I ain’t askin’ you to like me.  Just stay outta my way!”

     “That could be hard to do,” Puz said, more calmly than I’m sure he felt. The two of them locked eyes and neither one moved. I saw Puz clench his right fist. Albert did the same, but the sound of a screen door slapping interrupted.

     “Albert!” shouted the Toothpick Man. “Get over here!”

     “This ain’t over,” Albert said to Puz as he stomped away.

     “Bring it,” whispered Puz, looking angry but not sounding like his confident self at all.



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Re: First Paragraph
« Reply #37 on: November 23, 2010, 06:26:11 PM »
I enjoyed this. Thanks for the read. I want to know more about Albert.

Offline 510bhan

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Re: First Paragraph
« Reply #38 on: November 23, 2010, 07:21:02 PM »
Overall happy - a little niggle with 'she wagged her head in our direction' perhaps it's more of a US expression but for me trying to picture it once I got beyond thinking of fingers or tails wagging, it still didn't work for me - is it the same as tilting her head to the side and shaking it to indicate stop it?

One a little boy; one a pretty girl I guessed was near our age. [I don't think this is a complete sentence, probably needs to be attached to the earlier one with the action of getting out of the car]

As you have described Albert so beautifully I think the first thing the gang might notice is his hair leading him out of the car then the observation that he was also their age once he has fully appeared.????????

I know you have described Puz earlier and we know he is a big unit for his age but I think the 'only without the belly.' reference needs to go with Albert's physical description rather than as a tag on to being a worthy opponent of Puz ...or -- just lose the afterthought.

And he's called Toothpick Man because....always has a toothpick playing at his teeth, he's as skinny as hell, he has a pointy head and toes? We haven't seen that yet [I don't think so, anyway] - might be worth incorporating that somewhere in his actions.

Still engaging and coloured well.

Thanks! :-* :-*

Offline herron

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Re: First Paragraph
« Reply #39 on: November 23, 2010, 07:57:49 PM »
Overall happy - a little niggle with 'she wagged her head in our direction' perhaps it's more of a US expression but for me trying to picture it once I got beyond thinking of fingers or tails wagging, it still didn't work for me - is it the same as tilting her head to the side and shaking it to indicate stop it?

It seems to be well understood here.  It's really a movement of the head in one direction or another, in this case toward the group of boys watching. It's a flippant, transient kind of movement. Not sure what else would really describe it without getting into more description than I wanted. Will have to think about it.

One a little boy; one a pretty girl I guessed was near our age. [I don't think this is a complete sentence, probably needs to be attached to the earlier one with the action of getting out of the car]

There was, at one time, more here ... a short description of the girl ... but I thought it didn't add anything to the story.  You will see, near the end of the story, that it's covered ... sort of.  Another one to think about.

As you have described Albert so beautifully I think the first thing the gang might notice is his hair leading him out of the car then the observation that he was also their age once he has fully appeared.????????

?? The only real description of any kind is of Albert.

I know you have described Puz earlier and we know he is a big unit for his age but I think the 'only without the belly.' reference needs to go with Albert's physical description rather than as a tag on to being a worthy opponent of Puz ...or -- just lose the afterthought.

Hmmm ... interesting.  I saw it as a direct reference to Albert's description, rather than an afterthought.  May have to revisit that one, too.

And he's called Toothpick Man because....always has a toothpick playing at his teeth, he's as skinny as hell, he has a pointy head and toes? We haven't seen that yet [I don't think so, anyway] - might be worth incorporating that somewhere in his actions.

LOL!  Well, he is "... an angular middle-aged man ..." and he does have that toothpick he chews on.  I saw it as a kid's instant take on the persona.

Still engaging and coloured well.

Thanks! :-* :-*

Thanks. I really appreciate the feedback.  :-*

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Offline 510bhan

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Re: First Paragraph
« Reply #40 on: November 23, 2010, 08:13:44 PM »
As you have described Albert so beautifully I think the first thing the gang might notice is his hair leading him out of the car then the observation that he was also their age once he has fully appeared.HuhHuh??

?? The only real description of any kind is of Albert.


I probably didn't explain what I meant clearly - sorry - You list the children in the car:   
...followed by two kids from the car. One a little boy; one a pretty girl I guessed was near our age. Getting out last was a boy, also about our age, with an unruly mane of auburn hair.

I just thought the our age bits tumbled on top of each other and as the piece is about describing Albert that the first thing they would notice as he emerged would have been his head - you know the way you kind of lead out of a vehicle head first, then legs unfolding till you stand.

One a little boy; one a pretty girl I guessed was near our age. [I don't think this is a complete sentence, probably needs to be attached to the earlier one with the action of getting out of the car]

There was, at one time, more here ... a short description of the girl ... but I thought it didn't add anything to the story.  You will see, near the end of the story, that it's covered ... sort of.  Another one to think about.


What I meant was:
The woman shook her head in disgust and marched up onto the Cantwell porch, followed by two kids from the car; one a little boy and one a pretty girl I guessed was near our age.

Toothpick Man -I love, just the sort of name kids would give, just wondered what had caused them to give him the name and could we the readers see that?

Have I made more sense this time???????

 :-* :-* :-*

Offline herron

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Re: First Paragraph
« Reply #41 on: November 24, 2010, 01:48:15 AM »
Gotcha!  I'll work on it.  Thanks!   :-*

As to Toothpick Man ... How about a slight addition near the beginning:

    He stood with his hands firmly on his hips and stared past the collection of dents and rust on his old Chevy toward the old Cantwell place. He didn’t acknowledge my presence. He just stood with sunglasses perched on top of his head, chewing a toothpick and staring at that old white clapboard house. I smiled as I thought: Hello, Toothpick Man.


For the kid descriptions:

    The woman shook her head in disgust and marched up onto the Cantwell porch, followed by two kids. One a little boy, younger than us; one a pretty dark-haired girl I guessed was near our age. Getting out last was another boy. He had an unruly mane of auburn hair that looked as if it had been sheared with a mower. He must have been asleep in the hot car as one side of his hair stood straight up in large cowlick, while the rest was plastered rather darkly to the side of his head. He looked like an angry clown.

     He was also about our age, solidly built with massive arms and a thick neck. By size alone he looked like a worthy opponent for Puz, only without the belly. He spotted us, fixed us with a glare and stomped over, his gait almost a carbon copy of the Toothpick Man’s swagger.
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Offline 510bhan

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Re: First Paragraph
« Reply #42 on: November 24, 2010, 12:54:17 PM »
Yep - although you don't have to add in the 'thought'. Just by seeing his action you can guess that kids would jump to a nickname.

Reads much easier without the extra 'our age'... moving that to the description of Albert and the assessment of him compared to Puz is much better placed.

Excellent stuff! :-*

Offline herron

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Re: First Paragraph
« Reply #43 on: November 24, 2010, 02:09:04 PM »
Thanks, Love.
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Re: First Paragraph
« Reply #44 on: November 24, 2010, 02:35:18 PM »
Hello

take a lot at the number of 'his' and 'old' you have in the first part of this section

you wrote:

He stood with his hands firmly on his hips and stared past the collection of dents and rust on his old Chevy toward the old Cantwell place. He didn’t acknowledge my presence. He just stood with sunglasses perched on top of his head, chewing a toothpick and staring at that old white clapboard house. I smiled as I thought: Hello, Toothpick Man.

is there a way to thin them down.

Nice way to add to the character, I almost wanted to put his body shape in, like a toothpick, all lanky, just to type his new nick better.

You wrote:

The woman shook her head in disgust and marched up onto the Cantwell porch, followed by two kids. One a little boy, younger than us; one a pretty dark-haired girl I guessed was near our age. Getting out last was another boy. He had an unruly mane of auburn hair that looked as if it had been sheared with a mower. He must have been asleep in the hot car as one side of his hair stood straight up in large cowlick, while the rest was plastered rather darkly to the side of his head. He looked like an angry clown.

     He was also about our age, solidly built with massive arms and a thick neck. By size alone he looked like a worthy opponent for Puz, only without the belly. He spotted us, fixed us with a glare and stomped over, his gait almost a carbon copy of the Toothpick Man’s swagger.


I like the description. In a way wanted to see "He looked like an angry clown.' before his description. so I have a starting point that something strange is coming, but its a direction. The 'mane' I'm unsure of because of the sheared with a mower, I think the 'sheared' is a stronger image, where 'unruly' can hold the first image well enough with the colour.

The 'age' mention, all those comparisons was a bit much. is it important if only one was not their age enough to mention it at all? so don't overwrite.


But I like these two segments, interesting characters

Temp