My newest short story idea. It isn't finished yet, so I'm just looking for comments on the opening.
I was playing road hockey when I broke Mr. Mandokaâ€™s soul. Heâ€™d had it hanging up in his living room window, strung from the curtain rod as though it were a sun-catcher. Which, I suppose, it sort of was. It certainly shattered like glass. Iâ€™d known that it was there, of course; we all did. In fact, we often joked about accidentally breaking it, about how bad we would feel if we did, robbing him of the afterlife and all. Still, none of us actually thought it would ever happen. Hard as my slap shots were, they were generally pretty accurate. My friends just stared at me in the seconds that followed, their eyes wide with disbelief. Billyâ€™s gum fell out of his mouth. Billy was always chewing gum, and never just one piece, either. Heâ€™d put the whole pack in his mouth. If you checked him just right, you could make him choke on it. Anyway, he was the first to break the silence. â€śOld man Mandokaâ€™s gonna kill you,â€ť he said. Chris and Evan nodded sagely behind him, the graphite shafts of their hockey sticks gleaming under the cold winter sun.
I really like your first paragraph, especially the first sentence -- it pulls the reader in. The second paragraph seems unnecessary and there is some telling going on. Do you really have to go into Billy's chewing gum habits this soon into the story? It slows down the action that you started with. I think you could jump from the first straight to the third paragraph and then add the info from the second in later in the story. Maybe even if you switch the 2nd and 3rd paragraphs it would work better.
Posts: 266 | Registered: Mar 2004
I can describe this in one word: fan-damn-tastic.
It could use tightening, but it doesn't need it. Deleting extraneous words, searching for "lightning bugs" and replacing them with "lightning" (to quote Mark Twain on the use of words), and policing awkward constructions (e.g., He had had it hanging) never hurt any composition.
Concerning the bubble-gum aside, I like it and must disagree with the previous posts. The comment does lower the tension level, but in return it grants us enormous insights into the nature of the POV character and takes a long step towards establishing a distinctive narrative voice. It's a tradeoff, and one that seems to me well worth the cost in lost tension.
Try eliminating the commas, here. The sentence was distracting.
quote: Billy was always chewing gum, and never just one piece, either. Heâ€™d put the whole pack in his mouth. If you checked him just right, you could make him choke on it. Anyway, he was the first to break the silence.
The bit about the gum falling from Billy's mouth is good -- it shows that Billy is completely shocked. The bit about how he's always chewing too much gum seems out of place. Also, the "Anyway," changes the entire voice of the peice. Was the switch to such a conversational tone intentional?
Really good show. I'd like to take a crack at the rest of it, if you don't have enough offers already
Small suggestion, feel free to ignore: perhaps your first word should be "we" instead of "I" since road hockey is not a solitary sport. "We were playing road hockey when I broke Mr. Mandoka's soul."
It is a very interesting premise. One wonders why Mr. Mandoka would hang such a fragile thing in the window in the first place, and what a soul looks like. Personally I picture a gauzy, whispy, iridescence, like a thick filmy spiderweb almost.
One other little note: Are suncatchers made of glass? Maybe I'm thinking of dreamcatchers.
Edited to say: I'd love to read it!
[This message has been edited by autumnmuse (edited February 23, 2005).]
You could nit a little bit here and there... but wow! I so couldn't bring myself to slow down and do so. Very entertaining, interesting concept, and wow. Good concept. Would certainly read more.
Great first 13. I disagree about the gum - I like that detail, and I think that it helps to establish the feeling of the story. After all, you are placing a sublime concept, a soul, in a very down to earth context. I would keep the seemingly unrelated detail of Billy's gum chewing (though I would take out the 'anyway' and just have it 'He was the first to break the silence.'
Posts: 64 | Registered: Dec 2003
I love the first line! Even the "I" as opposed to "we." (Though I don't think it would especially hurt to change it.) I'm with the others as to general tightening (but don't tighten too much, or you might lose the distinctive flavor). And I'm kind of on the side of those who want to keep the gum (though not terribly committed either way); it gives the piece a story-teller feel. It's the kind of detail that people insert when they really tell a story. So far, so good.
Posts: 491 | Registered: Oct 2004
Wow! Thanks for all the replies guys and gals! I was really only expecting to get a couple. I'm going to make some minor tweaks based on the suggestions I have heard thus far. The bubble gum will stay but I'm going to bump it down the page a little, keep the tension and action focused (as DJV put it) for the first thirteen. I just wish it was done so I could send it out to you guys! I will be sure to update the post when it is. Once again, thanks everybody!!
Posts: 270 | Registered: Jan 2005
If the gum is a problem for anyone, you could increase the relevance to the context by mentioning that the narrator's awareness of Billy's fondness for gum (and the amount of gum involved in this case) was the reason he really noticed this as a measure of how surprised they all were. Since I think the reason you have the passage in there at all is to give us an idea just how suprised Billy must have been to let his gum fall out of his mouth, it shouldn't be moved to a different place in the narrative. If it can't work where it is, then you should probably cut it altogether. I felt it already worked well enough to show not only Billy's reaction but also the narrator's sense of disbelief as well.
The "why would Mandoka hang his soul in a window" question brings up the question of how he could hang it there, which brings up the issue of whether this is SF, Fantasy, or contemporary. I can definitely see this as being a pretty interesting story in all three cases, but play fair and let us know which it is (or at least which markets you'll be considering) before we read the whole thing.
Overall, I have to agree with everyone and say that this is a great opening, one that promises a really good story that will be well written and do something new with a couple of very old concepts.