Author Topic: Commercial Fiction book - First chapter - First 1,980 words - mild language  (Read 243 times)

Offline Marlowe75

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Iíve been losing myself for years, and Iím not even that old.  I was never good at denial; and thatís never helped me much.  Letís see if I am any good at running.  Well thatís already happening; and itís happening now.  There is an end on the way and I need to stop it.  This never prevented me from thinking too much, and I can over-analyze everything quite often.  Thinking: itís whatís for breakfast; not to mention every other meal.  Yet this morning I canít think of another time when I have been thinking more clearly.  Despite being out and about under the silver morning sky, I find myself wired as all hell and wishing I had any time for even some bad coffee to settle the well-deserved hangover Iím trying to ignore.  This particular daybreak has at least lent the opportunity to solve a grandiose mystery for the ages.  Itís remarkable what we donít know if we simply donít want to know it.  I woke up this early because I was too afraid to say goodbye and be done with it.  I thought I couldnít get past the front door, yet somehow I am here; and itís brought me to a here and now moment.  Here and now I know thereís no good to come of it and the here and now comes down to two empty milk crates resting on the street.

Iíve seen these things just about every day before now; in the morning usually, or on a day off, when I come home, sometimes even late at night.  I live in the hybrid suburbia/city section of my town.  Itís old and the parking is abysmal in my neighborhood, which is too kind of a word for it.  I can try to imagine how better it was before every household had a car for every person of driving age some thirty years ago perhaps.  I would like having a car parked right outside my home just like anyone else but here there really are no driveways, garages few and far between, and I accept the fact that parking is left up to the street alone, or high-priced paid lots just as far; so I park only as close as I am able; and never taking any thought to the fact I do not own the pavement. 
   
I hate my own keen sense of observation.  When I first saw these milk crates some time ago, I thought someone was throwing them away.  Obviously, if they are left on or off the curb, they wanted the garbage men to take them off to the landfill.  So if I or anyone else needed these things, we could just take them, similar to how some people take couches from the curb if they are decent.  Hell, my friends and I did that once or twice in college; itís not as if we could buy one back then.  The crates are not here for that purpose today.  I find myself more and more appalled by the behavior of the human species and thatís in no small part to my own naivety and apparent underestimation of such a state of ignorance.  Ignoring it was easier but Iím not good at easy either.

Maybe I just never wanted it to register but in short time I realized these orange (with a strong tinge of dirty brown) milk crates are my neighborís way of reserving her own parking spot on a public street.  Yes, Iíve seen the crates many times before but have never witnessed anyone actually doing this, like they were ninjas or something, never to be seen; they just sort of magically appear there on a daily basis, even on weekends when it suits them.  Yet this morning as I walked down the hill towards the corner home I see her, not only that but I see her working her magic, pulling the two putrid milk crates from the back of her aging SUV and placing the them spaced far enough apart to reserve her own space for whenever she gets home tonight.  Why am I doubting my own revulsion with it?   I simply didnít believe it, almost scared at witnessing a crime.

For the first time since living in this neighborhood I saw her, in growing daylight, straight ahead and in the act.  It was a tad epic, honestly.  I was not sure what to do about it, what could I have done?  I walked slower, uncontrollably giving her a look of disapproval, slightly shaking my head.  I was not happy with this person; she is intruding on her neighborhood, breaking the law and just all around being rude.  Though make no mistake about it: she is unbelievably pissed off at me.
   
Her aging, melty eyes were boring into me enough to make me believe for nearly half a minute that Iíve really done something wrong here.  Not only is she so disappointed in me, I can feel the tension rise from her, the wrath festering for what I have done to her.  I donít believe in spirits or astrological energy but the Force is disturbed here, and it is terrifying.  Her frown is bending so profoundly as to make me feel like an obnoxious intruder, a jackass who makes her ashamed to be my neighbor and remembering a better time when usurpers like me didnít live here.  It is really me who is the antagonist in our newfound duo, and the question our story leaves the two of us is: what the living hell is wrong with me?  I think this girlís head is about to fall off her shoulders based on it not being able to ever stop shaking.   Sheís like a scowling, selfish old bobble head doll.  She was shaking her head so much Iíd be surprised if she did not have a headache before she drove off; not that this would ever stop her.

By this reaction, she has become a victim somewhere within the past minute.  She does not deserve to be treated this way.  Hasnít she had enough?  If I am gaining anything at all here from my own disapproval, itís that she is threatened; she is oppressed; and it does not matter if I have no idea why. 

Never speaking, the neighbor slightly rolls her eyes and works her art of the smirk in clear disappointment as she continues to break the law and take possession of public property as if she bought and paid for her section of the street as an extension of her home and therefore of herself.  I continue to walk in my direction, albeit slowly.  I canít take my eyes off of her as she finishes spacing her milk crates, and justifying to herself how much of a prick I am.  Itís all half-tough but sheís getting her point across: Iím the bad guy here.  I just wish I really knew why; and sorry, when I get to her age I will still not approve of this.  Maybe that is why. 

Looking at her closely now, sheís really not exceptionally old, yet definitely aging, perhaps in the late 40ís or early 50ís, not overweight but positively getting there; tight blue jeans stretched around her inflated backside.  I can see a bit too much eye make-up somewhat distracting attention from her flabby neck and squinted, lazy right eye.  I canít look at her too long; this is not due to her appearance but what she is really doing.  She is reserving a spot on our damned public street and clearly thinks I am in the wrong for disagreeing with it. 

Iím not sure if itís this crime, or that Iím expected to not care about this that gets to me.  This neighbor is astounding because after making me feel at least briefly guilty, sheís has me feeling really alone, and I keep walking.

I imagine the fact that I took direct notice of her and involuntarily scowled and snorted at the sight of it was enough to so profoundly offend her and draw such extreme, albeit silent vitriol.  Thereís some role Iím not filling here, some sort of donít ask, donít tell policy with the parking arrangements that I am not accommodating, and to be honest, I just donít see a need to.

She slams her door just hard enough to get her point across.  Sheís not looking at the road, but out into disappointed space.  Her tires screech just a little, an exclamation point on the silent tongue lashing she has just given me.  This girl didnít wake up this morning and go about her day just to be troubled by the likes of me.  She was not supposed to get caught; and challenging her on it was an injustice thrown upon her against her will.  None of this was ever meant to go down.  I spoiled it all for her today.  Thereís no way in hell she is changing; that would demand maturity that is just not there; even given whatever our age difference.
   
Iím glad sheís leaving, but we are not as different as she likes to believe.  She misses the days when every neighbor knew each other and did not violate their (perceived) property and personal space; and she misses the community that once existed right here in our little part of town.  I miss it too; I just never got an opportunity to experience it.  I never had what she is pining for and wishes people like me did not take away from her.  I may flatter myself to think she drove off discerning about what the incursion my generation is, and how I do not understand anything.  How could I?  I am younger than her, after all.  I overestimate the prospect of her understanding my own appreciation of certain griefs with time here.  She is far from interested.  What is hers is hers; and there should be no question.  Itís alright.  I donít want her to like me anyway.
     
Anyway, sheís gone.  Iíve never met this neighbor and know nothing about her but I know sheís been living here much longer than I have, probably longer than anyone still here from her time.  Itís not enough I let her drive off in a huff and did not touch the milk crates.  The fact that I showed such dissent, even if only through body language, is enough to know what I am dealing with.  Itís not sufficient for this friendly neighbor to do this on a daily basis, and itís not enough to get away with it just as much.  I have not succeeded in stopping any of it today yet there is clearly something else she wanted if not needed that is not being rewarded to her.  Sorry, my dear, we canít always win; though we can evidently always deny. 

Maybe itís not pure arrogance.  Time is on her side; at least it is as far as of any real concern.  Milk crate girl probably bought and paid off her house 30 years ago, back when almost everyone could pay off their homes before their youngest child was five years old.  No such option will I ever have.  Sheís far less concerned about that turn of events but I canít help but wonder if she likes it. 

Parking in this area was probably quite manageable then, less population, families with only one car; not one car for each of the four or five people living in each house.  I wish I had known those days as she did.  I still would not drop milk crates on the street today, yet it would have been all so nice to have.  This neighborhood was somehow more than what we have today, not less.  I was not there; I just try to remember anyway.  Again, just canít ignore it, it seems; and not entirely sure why I should. 

Offline PIJ1951

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I'm assuming this is the opening to your novel where the narrator introduces himself to the reader. Done correctly it gives an insight into his character and sets the tone for what is to follow. But overdone, the way this is, and you are in danger of alienating your audience even before the 'story' starts. I'll admit, I'm not a fan of internalised monologue aimed directly at the reader. An occasional aside here and there is fine, but reams of self-absorbed reflection get boring very quickly.

Openings are notoriously difficult to get right. You have to find a way to engage with the reader - hook them on the first page (even the first paragraph if possible) in order to get them to continue reading. It helps if there's an element of suspense - or something out of the ordinary to fix the main character in the reader's mind. It's the writer's job to make the reader anxious to discover what might happen to the main character in the pages that follow.

Sadly, your opening does none of this. The first paragraph is navel gazing at its worst. It's repetitive and annoying. Did I warm to the narrator the more I read? Quite the opposite, which does not bode well for whatever might follow. Am I intrigued? Not really. Reading is an investment of time. One expects something in return. Why does it take four paragraphs to tell me the hero watches a neighbour reserve her parking spot with milk crates? Is this information even relevant?

Maybe the story starts in the wrong place - maybe something intriguing happens in the next chapter. The danger is, no one will bother sticking around to find out. For what it's worth, there's no glimmer of a story until our first sighting of the neighbour in daylight. She's a little eccentric, maybe - almost compulsive in what she's doing. Her behaviour is strange to say the least.

But we are shown none of this. Instead you seem reluctant to extend the focus beyond the constraints of the narrator's narrow mindset. It would appear his idiosyncratic observations and petty internalised conflicts are more important than the plot.

You seem to be a capable writer but on the basis of this extract I'd hardly call this 'commercial fiction' because nothing much has happened in the first 2000 words. Although there might well be a market for this slow-burn style of narrative, I struggled to read to the end. I'm hoping you enjoyed writing this but I'm afraid it left me cold.