"I Just Need Some Space", first 400 words

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JohnDurvin
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"I Just Need Some Space", first 400 words

Post by JohnDurvin » May 10th, 2011, 1:11 pm

I know this doesn't seem like the beginning of a sci-fi novel, just trust me. Would you keep reading?

“Rough day, hon?” the waitress asked Shapiro, her smile beaming like xenon headlights on a dark country road. She was awfully perky for a night-shift waitress in an off-ramp diner. Considering how Shapiro’s day had gone, he wished she’d turn down the high-beams.
“Worst I can remember, actually...” He squinted to read her nametag. “...Rosemary.” He folded his newspaper and laid it down. It was late on a Tuesday, so the diner was nearly empty; he didn’t feel bad taking up her time. “What’s the cheapest thing on the menu, after the complimentary coffee?”
“We actually don’t do the free coffee anymore,” she apologized, her grin contorting sympathetically but never disappearing.
“Oh,” Shapiro said, sinking a little into his booth. “That’s kinda why I came to this particular diner. The coffee was free last time my wife kicked me out.”
“Sorry,” she said. “Can I get you anything?”
“No, she had the bank freeze all my credit cards and bank accounts a little before lunch-time, so all the money I’ve got is the spare change under the seats in my car,” he replied. “My plan had actually been to sit here, reading the want ads and drinking the free coffee until you kicked me out.”
“Then what?”
“No idea,” he said. He took a sip of his coffee. “When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?”
“Dora the Explorer,” Rosemary chirped. “Do you still need a minute?”
“Well...until my wife takes me back, I’m living out of my car until I can get a job,” he told her, thinking aloud. “And if she doesn’t, it’s not like I can afford a lawyer; we don’t have any savings, and she’s withdrawn all the money we had into a private account. All I own is a car, some pocket change, three paper-case boxes of balled-up clothes, some paper napkins and ketchup packets crammed in my glove-compartment, and a funny little bobble-head of the Laughing Buddha that I used to keep on my desk. I can’t afford food.” The waitress contorted her smile into a more sympathetic one, but said nothing. “I found this newspaper, and I’m keeping it.”
“I’ll just check back with you in a few minutes,” she told him.
Everybody loves using things as other things, right? Check out my blog at the Cromulent Bricoleur and see one hipster's approach to recycling, upcycling, and alterna-cycling (which is a word I just made up).

Nicole R
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Re: "I Just Need Some Space", first 400 words

Post by Nicole R » May 10th, 2011, 3:47 pm

Hi John,

Interesting section - I kind of like the down-on-his-luck MC. It has an underlying redemptive quality that intrigues me. However, I think you could make this opening even more engaging by tightening in a few areas where it felt repetitive. My line-by-line is below. Hope this helps and good luck on the project!
JohnDurvin wrote:Consider adding a brief description of the waitress before this dialogue. For some reason the use of "hon" made me think it was his wife talking - that image stuck with me even after you intro'd the waitress. “Rough day, hon?” the waitress asked Shapiro, her smile beaming like xenon headlights on a dark country road. She was awfully perky for a night-shift waitress in an off-ramp diner. Considering how Shapiro’s day had gone, he wished she’d turn down the high-beams. I like the tone in these last few lines

“Worst I can remember, actually...” He squinted to read her nametag. “...Rosemary.” He folded his newspaper and laid it down. It was late on a Tuesday, so the diner was nearly empty; he didn’t feel bad taking up her time. I think you can cut the previous line. We already know it's late because you mention she's a night-shift waitress. It'd be pretty easy to throw "empty off-road diner" in earlier, too. That way you can keep the dialogue going here without slowing it down to set context. “What’s the cheapest thing on the menu, after the complimentary coffee?”

“We actually don’t do the free coffee anymore,” she apologized, her grin contorting sympathetically but never disappearing. You can tighten here by simplifying: "We actually don't do the free coffee anymore." Her grin contorted sympathetically. From that statement and her dialogue, the reader infers that she's apologizing and we know her grin doesn't disappear (since she's grinning).

“Oh,” Shapiro said, sinking a little into his booth. The tighter phrasing might be: "Oh." Shapiro sank into his booth. “That’s kinda why I came to this particular diner. The coffee was free last time my wife kicked me out.” I liked this line!

“Sorry,” she said. “Can I get you anything?”

“No, she had the bank freeze all my credit cards and bank accounts a little before lunch-time, so all the money I’ve got is the spare change under the seats in my car,” he replied. “My plan had actually been to sit here, reading the want ads and drinking the free coffee until you kicked me out.”

“Then what?”

“No idea,” he said. He took a sip of his coffee. “When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?”

“Dora the Explorer,” This might be a weird observation, but isn't Dora the Explorer a little too recent to be referenced in this context? I think it started in the early 2000s, so that means your waitress wouldn't be much older than 17ish if she started watching it as a kid at about age 7. I was picturing a slightly older waitress. Rosemary chirped. “Do you still need a minute?”

“Well...until my wife takes me back, I’m living out of my car until I can get a job,” he told her, thinking aloud. “And if she doesn’t, it’s not like I can afford a lawyer; we don’t have any savings, and she’s withdrawn all the money we had into a private account. All I own is a car, some pocket change, three paper-case boxes of balled-up clothes, some paper napkins and ketchup packets crammed in my glove-compartment, and a funny little bobble-head of the Laughing Buddha that I used to keep on my desk. I can’t afford food.” I think you can eliminate some of the description about his sad state here. We get glimpses of that from his earlier dialogue, and it starts to sound a little too woe-is-me. The waitress contorted her smile into a more sympathetic one, but said nothing. I loved your first use of contorted, but I'm not sure you can get away with it twice in this short a section. “I found this newspaper, and I’m keeping it.”

“I’ll just check back with you in a few minutes,” she told him.

AllieS
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Re: "I Just Need Some Space", first 400 words

Post by AllieS » May 10th, 2011, 6:46 pm

I like it, and here are my comments:

“Rough day, hon?” the waitress asked Shapiro, her smile beaming like xenon headlights on a dark country road. She was awfully perky for a night-shift waitress in an off-ramp diner. Considering how Shapiro’s day had gone, he wished she’d turn down the high-beams.

“Worst I can remember, actually...” He squinted to read her nametag. “...Rosemary.” He folded his newspaper and laid it down. It was late on a Tuesday, so the diner was nearly empty; he didn’t feel bad taking up her time. “What’s the cheapest thing on the menu, after the complimentary coffee?”

“We actually don’t do the free coffee anymore,” she apologized, her grin contorting sympathetically but never disappearing.

“Oh,” Shapiro said, sinking a little into his booth. “That’s kinda why I came to this particular diner. The coffee was free last time my wife kicked me out.”

“Sorry,” she said. “Can I get you anything?”

“No, she had the bank freeze all my credit cards and bank accounts a little before lunch-time, so all the money I’ve got is the spare change under the seats in my car,” he replied. “My plan had actually been to sit here, reading the want ads and drinking the free coffee until you kicked me out.”

“Then what?”

“No idea,” he said. He took a sip of his coffee. “When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?”

“Dora the Explorer,” Rosemary chirped. “Do you still need a minute?” Is this in the future? Dora the Explorer's not that old, and the waitress called him "hon."

“Well...until my wife takes me back, I’m living out of my car until I can get a job,” he told her, thinking aloud. “And if she doesn’t, it’s not like I can afford a lawyer; we don’t have any savings, and she’s withdrawn all the money we had into a private account. All I own is a car, some pocket change, three paper-case boxes of balled-up clothes, some paper napkins and ketchup packets crammed in my glove-compartment, and a funny little bobble-head of the Laughing Buddha that I used to keep on my desk. I can’t afford food.” The waitress contorted her smile into a more sympathetic one, but said nothing. “I found this newspaper, and I’m keeping it.” I agree with what Nicole R said about the use of the second contorted. It's too repetitive. I like the waitresses reactions through all this, but this paragraph is where I have the problem. The paragraph farther up does a good job of shedding light on why Shaprio is there, and the issues with his wife. What he says seems like the sort of thing a guy would mention to a stranger about troubles with his wife. This part is pretty in-depth. I'd only expect this kind of detailed explanation with a close friend or a therapist. I think you can tighten it to make it more effective.

“I’ll just check back with you in a few minutes,” she told him.

JohnDurvin
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Re: "I Just Need Some Space", first 400 words

Post by JohnDurvin » May 10th, 2011, 10:03 pm

I actually had been picturing the waitress pretty young, probably early twenties; there's a bit in the exposition that follows establishing the story as happening around five or ten years from now. She called him 'hon' because I've lived my whole life in the American South--all waitresses, from high-end bistro hostesses to Taco Bell cashiers, call everyone 'hon'. Using 'contorted' twice in such a short time, though, I have no excuse for.
Everybody loves using things as other things, right? Check out my blog at the Cromulent Bricoleur and see one hipster's approach to recycling, upcycling, and alterna-cycling (which is a word I just made up).

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