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Alice In Wonderland (Beginning)

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Old 05-29-2014, 08:59 PM
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Default Alice In Wonderland (Beginning)


A loud voice right by my ear, and my shirt was tight against my neck. My shoulder hit the wall, and I couldn't suck in enough air through my gritted teeth. The blinding flash of canary yellow could only be my boss, though I didn't see his face as he disappeared through the kitchen door. The rag I'd been cleaning tables with moments before had slapped against my shirt, and the shock of cool water felt more real than the fading ache in my shoulder. My neck prickled where he'd flipped my collar up jerking me out of his way. I smoothed it down, letting the stupid grin settle back over my face. My lips were a marionette, and I'd learned to master them since working here.

"Screw you too," I muttered through the artificial smile. It was my waitress face; we all had them. Most people found out pretty quickly that a lilting curve of an expression drew more tips than a stern slash across the face. Emotions, real ones, were a liability. And I couldn't afford any of those.

I glanced around the restaurant, and couldn't help the bitter taste in my mouth. No one had noticed the insignificant confrontation. I'd have cause to wonder if it had happened at all, if not for the dull throbbing against my shoulder. The patrons laughed and chattered, apparently oblivious to anything that wasn't a part of their own individual bubbles of reality. I forced my gaze back to the table in front of me; it was littered with crumbs, plates, and other debris. The self-righteous thoughts came unbidden if I paid too much attention, but usually cleaning was a good way to keep them at bay. The plates were neatly stacked to the side, the table wiped down, and the condiments straightened before I let myself start daydreaming. Clean the slate.

I drifted around the restaurant, straightening tables and lugging around pitchers of various soft drinks. My mind wandered. I stopped by a recently evacuated table to pick up the bills left behind for me, and the ever present thoughts about my paycheck surfaced once again. Everyone did their daily grind for a reason. Mine was escape.

"Try it Alice. It's brand new, Alice. It's amazing, Alice. You'll feel invincible!" It was as if, by naming me after a fairy tale character that was high on some LSD resemblance to a magic potion, my mother thought I would be born with the same malediction. She was the black widow of drugs. The men were just a conduit, designed to take her to the real prize. It was an addiction I'd never shared, and one I'd never have to bear witness to again once I gathered the money to get away from it.

“Alice!” Miranda’s voice was suddenly loud, and right beside my face.

“Huh?" I turned to face her, and she was rolling her eyes at me. It was a well-known fact that I had a tendency to drift away when I worked. After years of waiting tables, it was simply the rhythm I'd picked up. Some of my co-workers understood, especially those who'd worked here longer, but others thought I was just being ditzy, or rude. Luckily Miranda was a nice girl, and she was grinning at me before I could apologize.

“Della is here now, she told me to tell you ‘thanks’ for picking up her slack.” She leaned back against the counter and fanned herself with a handful of menus, making the thin, dark strands of her hair dance. We wore our hair up at all times, but some of Miranda's hairs were cut too short to stay that way. On busy days her hair would always fall apart. I thought it was strangely beautiful, but would never tell her that. I was too awkward for that sort of thing.

“How’re her kids?” I asked instead, knowing Della had been having trouble getting all their documents straightened out for school. I wasn't a big talker, but around here I didn't have to be. The other girls would talk for me. All I had to do was listen.

“I don’t know, we didn’t have time to talk. But she was smiling, so things can’t have gone too bad.” We shared a smile, and then Miranda pulled some money from the pocket of her polo shirt. “Tips were okay today.” She sounded excited. She must have been thinking about her own kid’s birthday party, and the things extra money could buy him. My share was in her hand, outstretched and offered to me, but I couldn’t take it.

“You keep it ‘Randa.” I stuck my lower lip out as she started to object, an unspoken plea not to argue. “My birthday present to Dex, okay?” Her face opened up in that moment. No fake smiles or friendly camaraderie. There were real emotions there. Too real for me. My throat closed up, and I had to clench my jaw to keep myself from hyperventilating. Anything close to gratitude or tears made my cheeks flush; I felt lightheaded and weirdly strangled. If she tried to hug me I would have to bolt.

She didn’t. She only said, “Thanks,” and proceeded to swiftly disappear. I let out a deep breath of relief, called out a quick goodbye to the rest of the staff, and skittered out the door.

Outside the air was cool, and the wind felt so wonderful against my heated face that I stood there and let it bombard me. November was my favorite month in North Carolina. Be that as it may, I still wanted to leave. Not just my mother’s home, or even the tiny city we lived in, but the whole south entirely. A part of me knew that running wouldn't help me escape the memories I longed to erase, but it was a fantasy I let myself indulge in. It was a coping mechanism, the best one I had, and what would I do without it?

As I started my walk back to the apartment the wind pushed something new at me. From the alleyway to my right a familiar barrage of shameful smells assaulted my nose. A couple gyrated, intertwined, nearly shadows in the fading light of late afternoon. I quickened my steps, heat blossoming across my face as I straightened my neck and forced my gaze forward.

Drugs, drugs, drugs. Drugs and sex. It’s everywhere, huh? The question was meant to be rhetorical, but I found myself wondering. Drugs would always remind me of my mother, no matter how far away I managed to get. Of course, I knew that there were two sides to every story. I knew that not all people who did drugs were bad. But there was nothing rational behind my hatred for them all. There was nothing I could tell myself to make it burn less. I thought that maybe someday, after I had left this part of my life behind, I would be able to tolerate the thoughts. But I had no doubt it would take years. Maybe even therapy.

Despite the bad, I would miss my little city. Parts of the downtown roads were still old, red brick cobblestones that I'd always thought were beautiful. Strolling down the Riverwalk on a nice day, getting an ice cream, and sitting on a bench watching the people walk by was a nice sentiment. But, unwelcome amongst the happiness, my thoughts would always turn sour. No matter how nice the day, or good the ice cream, she always ruined it for me. My past, her past, the things I didn't know... the things I didn't want to know always invaded my mind, bringing an otherwise good day to a screeching halt.

Sometimes I would imagine myself as a baby, small and undernourished, hooked up to tubes in a hospital someplace terrifying. I didn't know where I was born. It was my assumption that my mother had always been an addict, so why wouldn't I have been born that way? And I really didn't want to know how morally bankrupt she might be, so I never asked. I couldn’t bring myself to hate her, but it was a thin layer of acceptance that I held onto. I didn’t go searching for reasons to make it worse.

Definitely therapy, I would think to myself more often than not. It was a running joke in my mind that had long since lost its humor when I realized it was most likely going to come true.

I tried not to think anymore about my mother as I took a deep breath and quickened my pace, eager to get to the apartment and out of my work clothes. I knew that she probably didn’t love me. If she had a speck of feeling for me, it definitely wasn’t the kind of love it was supposed to be. I could deal with that. I'd been doing it my entire life.

Just a few more months and you’ll be free.


** (New Authors Note): Changed quite a few things in the beginning. Wondering if this version is better/worse/more or less the same? I have the old one saved, just in case. There are a few things that were cut out that I'd really like to put back into the story if it stays this way, but I'm not sure where would be the best spot for them, or how to re-introduce them to make them fit better than before. The parts are below:

"I learned that the man who had an unhealthy addiction to inappropriately bright sweaters was my boss. His attire wasn’t really what fueled my hostility, it just felt satisfying having something nasty to think about him behind his back. I’d assumed at first that he was just a masochist who liked to shove around his waitresses to make a point. Since then I’d learned that I was just a special case. How lucky for me."

"Maybe it wouldn’t be as different as I imagined. After all, I’d always been the most responsible person in my household. My mother, always striving to think of ways to bring a new level of fuckery down on herself, could never be bothered. Sometimes I wondered if she wanted me to end up in the same situation; she was always trying to shove her boyfriends “Product” down my throat. Or up my nose. Or into my arm. Just thinking about it made me angry, and I scrubbed at the abandoned tables nearby with perhaps a little too much vigor."

I don't expect to just be able to pop them in like this, I figure I'll have to rewrite them a bit. But these were the basic parts... I just want a little more on her boss, and to introduce the mother's current boyfriend. Any suggestions? Thanks you guys!


Last edited by Lyndia; 06-09-2014 at 08:58 PM.. Reason: Re-wrote/took out some things, moved some bits around, mostly in the beginning half.
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Old 05-30-2014, 09:39 AM
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You've got some really great elements here, the resigned sweetness and heart of the protagonist are palpable. Love the little bits about the birthday party, the sweaters of the boss, nice bright parts of the story to balance out some of the grimness.

Most of the story flowed very very well, went down smooth and strong. There were two paragraphs, though, that I felt were so over-explained that I got bogged down in all the descriptors. The first example is paragraph one.

What you're describing is her getting slammed against the wall. In my memory, I recall more fingers, balls of feet, barrages of non-descript insults that were disorientingly missing...I think you've trying to do too much here. Getting slammed against the wall is fast, startling, and in my opinion, this paragraph doesn't really reflect that. She is setting up a task list while getting yanked around...it just doesn't have the abruptness that would give this paragraph some punch. Also, i think it's a little strong to say that a yellow sweater can blind someone.

Just for fun and contrast, here's how I would write the same thing,

"A flash of canary yellow, then I feel the concrete wall of the diner smash against my spine. I'm fighting to get air back into my lungs when I see his neatly-trimmed fingernails flicking off a black string as he walked through the kitchen door. It must've ripped from my collar when he grabbed me from behind."

It's a bit shorter, and in my (biased) mind, it gets to the point with more economy. It also feels a little more disorienting, I guess?

--

The other paragraph that confused me was this one:

As I started my walk back to the house, the wind pushed something else at me from an alleyway to my right. The light was fading rapidly, so it was hard to make out, but a figure interlocked with another shadow caught my eye...

I just read this a few more times, and still don't have any idea what she's seeing or even what it resembles. I'd take another crack at this.

---

Anyhow, I really loved the piece overall. The story elements are rich and interesting, and I'd be curious to know more about her life. Thanks for sharing, nice piece!
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Lyndia (05-30-2014)
  #3  
Old 06-01-2014, 02:12 PM
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Thank you so much for your input and suggestions! I love that you noticed and pointed those things out to me, because as many times as I've read over the beginning trying to fix it up, those are things that I've never thought of before, even though now that you've said them I can see how completely right you are.

How does this stack up?

"There was a flash of canary yellow and the breath was knocked from my lungs, my back rigid against the diner wall. The rag in my hand slapped against my shirt and the shock of cool water dampening my skin felt more real than the fading pain in my shoulders. All I could do was turn my head and stare, trying not to gasp for my breath back as he disappeared into the kitchen. My neck prickled where he'd flipped my collar up jerking me out of his way; I smoothed it back down with my other hand, that stupid 'not quite there' grin settling back onto my face."

Is that too much change? Still not abrupt enough? I think it's better than before, but maybe not as good as your version, which I really like, but don't want to take word for word or anything.

I think the other part will be easier to fix. I was just too vague with it, which is a thing I tend to do sometimes that I'm trying to be better with.

"As I started my walk back to the house, the wind pushed something new at me. From the alleyway to my right, a familiar barrage of shameful smells assaulted my nose. A couple gyrated, intertwined, nearly shadows in the fading light of late afternoon. I quickened my steps, heat blossoming across my face as I straightened my neck and forced my gaze forward."

Think that might work better, then just cut the rest of the paragraph and start in with the beginning of the next?

Even if you don't see this and comment on the possible changes, thanks again I really appreciate your help, and if I can ever do the same for you, just let me know!

Last edited by Lyndia; 06-01-2014 at 02:19 PM..
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Old 06-01-2014, 09:44 PM
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Just in case TheFool doesn't make it back, I'll put in my two cents worth.

I agree, the first para. is pretty busy, but I wouldn't chop it down too much. It does need more immediacy. '...blocking out the barrage of insults, tasking yourself to keep your balance...' - when someone is slamming you against the wall, you're not tasking yourself to do anything. You are simply reacting.

I think TheFool's example is more violent than what you are trying to convey (I could be wrong) but that is the kind of immediacy you're after. The cool rag dampening your skin and all that is still too much detailed description when what you're after is sharp, quick action.

I would clarify who this man is (your boss) in that same paragraph.

In contrast to TheFool, I think the sentence about the canary yellow sweater somehow conveys your dislike for the man well.

Your rework of the second para. in question came out well, eliminating the confusion the first version created.

Speaking of confusion, I hope that's not what I've done to you, here.

The MC sounds like a girl I knew. I'd like to see where you go with this.
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Old 06-02-2014, 07:56 AM
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Yeah, you guys nailed it with the first paragraph. It doesn't make sense the way it is now, I definitely need to change it. I'm just trying to find the right medium, the place between being too sudden and violent (because he really only pushes her out of his way, it isn't like he's slamming her into the wall in an attempt to actually hurt her, he's just kind of a dick to her for reasons she doesn't know yet) and being too thought out or slow, unrealistic. And I tend to favor the slow thought out process when writing normally at any rate, so cutting it down while keeping the prose sounding... well, the way I like it, is an issue for me sometimes.

Cool rag dampening sounds so prettyful though! I get you, it's still too much. Out the window with that one.

"A loud voice right by my ear, and my shirt was tight against my neck. Then the diner wall knocked my breath from me, and it was all I could do to suck it back down. The blinding flash of canary yellow could only be my boss, though I didn't see his face as he disappeared through the kitchen door."

How about that, and maybe I could add in this junk -- "The rag in my hand had slapped against my shirt, and the shock of cool water dampening my skin felt more real than the fading pain in my shoulders. My neck prickled where he'd flipped my collar up jerking me out of his way; I smoothed it back down with my other hand, that stupid 'not quite there' grin settling back onto my face." -- after the fact, or not at all if it's stronger without the extra fluff. I just like fluff.

No worries, I get what you're saying... no confusion here! Glad to have fixed up the second paragraph semi-easily. Now if only I can get the first one working.

Thanks for your "two cents worth" (it is much more valuable than that to me, though). I really appreciate your help, it really has been instrumental in helping me edit my writing and learn more about it for next time as well! So thanks again!
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Old 06-02-2014, 08:05 AM
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I like the idea of 'the rag in my hand' coming afterward - it kind of illustrates the coming back to reality after the sudden shock of being thrown up against the wall.

I always figure, short choppy action requires short choppy sentences. Longer sentences before and afterward represent 'the calm before the storm' and 'dazed and confused', alternately.
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Old 06-07-2014, 10:28 AM
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Default Alice in Wonderland

This draft readily and constantly brings strong characters making decisions to manipulate the action of the plot. You also help ground your audience into the setting by showing us the narrators feelings on a November day in North Carolina.
Almost done.

I like the way the narrator is not so distant from the characters. There is a shared and memorable connection. From the beginning, the narrator can't just wave a magic wand and get rid of her Boss. We see the struggle. We sympathize with her for having to work to get control of her life and at least attempt to go the Other Way.

Maybe a little more setting would help out. Show us more of the narrator's work place. We want to see what was happening to make the Boss come so aggressively. You wouldn't have to add more setting to the home life. I think we have a strong sense of her community.
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Old 06-07-2014, 11:07 PM
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The version i'm reading looks mostly good, with just some SPAG issues to be fixed with an edit.

Good first paragraph, and I thought the slamming against the wall is enough to give the reader a feeling of the violence. Pace is also mostly fine, except for the second and third paragraphs. I'd perhaps use less thoughts of the MC. Instead, let her actions show her annoyance of the situation. Also, I think the paragraph on the mother drags on a bit too long in the beginning. There is for me, too much reminiscing, which could maybe work better if you removed and place it somewhere else in the story. I only say this because you have much better remembering later on near the end and i'd rather keep that to make the beginning strong.

I'd say that the strongest part that shows her wand for freedom is near the end where she describes her mother and her life. Maybe keeping the first sentence then jumping straight into that part would will make the third paragraph more lively. I read the piece twice, and and while I think the latter half is well paced, the first half perhaps need more punch to it. Like i said, try to strike a balance between the actual action of the MC and her thoughts. Right now it seems to me that it's leaning too much on the thoughts side. Action can include how she talks and how she move, which you have some, but slightly more may be better. Good ending though. I wonder maybe you can use this as a prologue or something, because the last line is quite good as a means to end a "chuck" so to speak. I fear simply continuing on from what you have may weaken it. So if you think it appropriate, try making a time jump, maybe as little as a few hours later, and use that as the beginnings of a new "chunk"

I hope I hadn't totally confused you This as a beginning needs some strengthening, but I think you can make it work.
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Old 06-08-2014, 01:23 AM
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Thank you so much Escriber, and Elisa. Your comments have helped tell me exactly what I wanted to know -- whether or not there were too many thoughts, and not enough actions/settings throughout.

Also, I was planning on a time jump... it's already written that way, so I'm glad that works out sounding nice!

Now I just have to figure out how best to incorporate ya'lls wonderful advice, and I should be golden! Easier said than done, right?

Seriously though, thanks again to everyone who read and commented. When I get too close to a thing, I really can't take a step back and see what needs to be done by myself, which is why I appreciate everyone's help so much
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Old 06-09-2014, 07:56 AM
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North Carolina, drugs and depression.... I already love it! So far no objection, I like the emotional set up. The way your protagonist ist torn between wanting to leave behind bad memories but also wants to cradle the good ones, itīs something I could relate to. I think there is going to be alot of conflict (I meann in a good way for your plot) coming from this. But maybe you should go with Elisaīs advice on the mother part, itīs something I would also save up until you can realy describe the mother visualy. Could imagine something like Alice coming home and seeing her wasted mom hitting a bong/pipe with her non caring redneck boyfriend, who may be more into Alice than into her mother.... (to shallow?). Man, you already got my imagination going, nice!
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Old 06-09-2014, 08:47 PM
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Thanks FriedrichMFried Your kind words are much appreciated The next chapter/part is basically what you described (somewhat, anyways) which is pretty neat that you kind of saw those things coming for the future

I've edited it (the beginning mostly, tried to incorporate as much of everyone's good advice that I could) and would definitely benefit from a second opinion on the new edit if anyone has the time, or finds themselves wanting to. Of course you all have done so much for me already I can't really ask for more, so even if no one comments on the second draft, thanks again and I'm very grateful for everyone's help and opinions
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