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  1. #1
    Mitch Barr
    Guest

    Prologue for BLUE COLLAR...

    Hey guys...didn't even know this section was here. Let me know what you guys think--Thanks By the way, if this is too much for one post, forgive me and let me know. I'll keep them shorter if I have to. Also, just experimenting with the formatting, so any suggestions on that I'll be glad to abide by--

    Mitch



    Prologue

    South Florida, 1995

    “God damn it, Willie. What the @!#$ are you doing?”

    “Nothing.”

    I was sitting on the sink, elbows on knees, hyperfocused on the black Glock semi-automatic, feeling its deadly coldness, its weight, turning it over in my hands. It was still a bit slippery from the oil, although I had wiped it down pretty well after cleaning it, and the gun fell to the white and blue mosaic tile floor in front of her. I cringed.

    Nothing.

    The Princess stared at me.

    “Jesus Christ. It isn’t even loaded.” That was a lie.
    “You need help, baby.”

    Sliding off the sink, I bent and picked it up near her feet. I squeezed past her and through the open door. In the bedroom, I picked up the remote control and sat on the edge of the bed, dropping the gun beside me.

    “...eight...seven...six...” Dick Clark was counting down on the television.

    She appeared in the doorway

    I convinced The Princess, in the first hours of 1995, after the Apple dropped in Times Square, and after she found me in the bathroom with that gun in my hand, and after my annual New Year’s Eve Armaggedon anxiety attack had subsided, that I wasn’t really going to shoot myself. And The Princess believed eventually, I suppose. We all believe what we want to believe.

    I also promised her that I’d keep the appointment she’d made for me up in Boca Raton and when I did the pharmacologist put me on Prozac and something to help me sleep. He introduced me to a pretty psychiatric social worker, Cindy, who had recently recieved her Master’s degree from Columbia and had just moved down from New York.
    The forty-five minutes I spent with Cindy in her office, after she graciously made some room on her schedule for me, I half-listened as she decribed her philosophy on making positive changes in one’s life and how she can probably help me with my depression. The other half of my consciousness, the dominant half, was completely fixated on her beautiful feet. They were perfect. Size six. Maybe six and a half. Following the soft, tan skin of her calf and narrow ankle down, way down, rolling under the subtle heel, unhardened by the two-and-a-half short and laborless decades of her apparently priveledged country club life, up across the high, smooth arch, to the dainty little dark-red-nail-polished toes, lined up evenly acoss the front of her dangling brown leather sandal. I popped a healthy boner.

    Off to a pretty good start.

    A few months later...

    We were walking across the Aventura Mall parking lot, Morgan Sutcliffe and I, on our way to a quick half-day. Morgan was working for free. I had my toolbelt slung over one shoulder and two orange and black extension cords over the other, like bands of ammunition. He carried the table saw.

    “So, whatdya think, I’ll start measuring while you go back for the chopsaw?” I said

    It was my job to carry the tools. I knew that.

    Morgan knew that I knew and he plays along with me most times. On this day he was less than patient.

    “Do me a favor, Willie. My back is ****in’ screwed. Just go get it.” He wasn’t in the mood. “Please.”

    Once inside the frozen yogurt store, the one that was owned by friends of Morgan’s girlfriend Lisa, the friends that took advantage of his amiability and used him for all sorts of nut-humping slavery, I dropped my belt in the back office. I’ll never understand tradesmen who do favors. Bad enough to do it for money.

    “I’ll set up in here,” Morgan said.

    Stewart Stienberg was retired, but he ran several of these stores across Dade County for his son, Harvey, a South Beach real estate attorney who used them as a tax write off. They all lost money, no matter how much free work Morgan put into them.

    “Pick me up a large coffee, Willie?” Stewart called from behind the counter as I pushed through the glass door and back out into the mall. “Light, two sugars!”

    I wasn’t getting him any ****ing coffee.

    I did stop at Starbucks, just opening up for the day, for one of my own. Decaf Cappucino Grande, please. Extra cream. As I walked through the echoing halls, empty but for some early clean-up going on here and there, I carefully sipped the scorching liquid, which bounced in the cup and burned my upper lip anyway. Outside, I was about thirty feet from his cruddy Chevy cargo van when Morgan shouted to me from the Mall entrance. He was waving at me.

    “Willie!” he called. “Don’t forget the jigsaw and the inch and a quarter screws!”

    One second I was walking toward the truck, looking at Morgan over my shoulder and sipping my coffee, the next, the ground disappeared under my feet and I fell, straight down, an endless journey that was really only about four or five feet. I landed on the jagged steel remains of the drainage grill that belonged on it’s inch-wide rim at the top of the rectangular hole. The world got swimmy. I struggled against the black blanket I felt wrapping itself around my chest and head, the only parts of me still above ground.

    “Willie!” Morgan screamed, coming toward me fast and pulling me back through the dark waves.

    I realized that the droning hum in the blackness was coming from deep inside of me. I was moaning. I shook my head and my eyes cleared some.

    “Get me up,” I said to Morgan as he knelt beside the hole.

    “Wait a minute, wait.”

    “GET ME UP!”

    “Okay, okay. Can you move?”

    I wasn’t sure. He pulled me hard, both hands, and I fumbled my feet upward along the cement sides of the damp chasm. I layed down flat on the ashphalt. My jeans were shredded and covered with blood.

    “Get me to the hospital,” I said.

    Jagged little pills, these pellets of pleasure are.

    I’d been like a human being for a while. Therapy had been going well. Not well, exactly. Not like I was learning anything beyond the blissful contours of Cindy’s sublime features, mostly her finely pedicured and always freely displayed feet. I wondered how she couldn’t notice my obsession with them. God, how I wanted to touch them. She did talk a lot, requiring an unusually minimal input on my part, thus leaving my time for all sorts of indecent, internal reflection including, but not limited to, bending her over her desk and penetrating her roughly, her sundress hiked up around her waist, her smooth, straight, chesnut hair held tightly back in my clenched fists, pulling hard. Regardless, I really had been feeling a little better. Hadn’t been pensively caressing any weapons, anyway.

    Now, two ruptured vertebral discs, one of them pressing mildly but effectively on a spinal nerve, shooting lightening bolts down my arms. I’d never taken painkillers before. They proved quite convenient. Who’d even know?

    Absolutely ****ing groovy.

    I’d been clean for a while, attending meetings almost every night for a couple of years and I didn’t even realize I had relapsed for a few weeks. That is, until I ran out of pills on the Friday before the long Fourth of July weekend and got the kicks and shakes so bad I had to ask a frequent @!#$-up I knew from the program if he could help me out. Phil just happened to have some leftover Tylenol with Codeine from a toothache he had some time back. They were dreadfully weak but they held me over, a handful at a time. He told me not to tell anyone in the Program about both my own use of the pills or his part in supplying me some emergency low-grade opium.

    Phil DeLeo, a chronic relapser, constantly disappearing for weeks at a time, out on the streets hustling for crack, earned his living in quite an unconventional way. One time he had me follow him into a McDonald’s and witness him slipping on a recently mopped bathroom floor.

    Flim-Flam Phil gave me the number of his slimy personal injury attorney down in Coral Gables. I settled the case a few months later for seventy-five grand, which I spent on overdue bills, some of Miami’s finest Nicaraguan heroin, and the recording costs of my one and only, self-produced, dreamy and introspective CD that I never managed to sell to a label.

    Have you ever seen a thirty-year-old bald guy debuting on MTV?

    I think not.



  2. #2
    SpookyDude
    Guest

    Re: Prologue for BLUE COLLAR...

    Mitch,
    I read the first paragraphs in an attempt to decide if a prologue was forthcoming. I know there are fairly well defined criteria for the use of a prologue and I’m not sure this introduction fits. I noted the grammatical problems and some areas of structure.

    I think you are a good writer, and no doubt will successful join the ranks of published authors, but this piece didn’t work for me. I would have liked a smooth transition from the opening, which I liked, to the scene where you exploit that drug addition or mental illness. The ending will or should become a fixture for a point in the story where you either explain or expand upon the purpose of the prologue.

    I did see some grit which is interesting and I would have read further, but there were several mechanics of writing this scene I felt needed your attention. Don’t forget, these are only my comments and my point of view. I don’t want to discourage you from continuing to pursue this wip. Instead, I hope others can also provide some valuable insights to help you with this manuscript.

    Best of luck!

    Jon

    Comments below:

    Prologue

    South Florida, 1995

    “God damn it, Willie. What the @!#$ are you doing?”

    “Nothing.”

    I was sitting on the sink, elbows on knees, hyperfocused hyper focused on the black Glock semi-automatic, feeling its deadly coldness, its weight, turning it over in my hands. It was The gun was – I don’t like beginning a sentence in a passive voice. What was or it was what? The gun was or the horse was but not It was – what is it? still a bit slippery from the oil, although I had wiped it down pretty well after cleaning it, and the gun fell to the white and blue mosaic tile floor in front of her. I cringed.

    Nothing.

    The Princess stared at me.

    “Jesus Christ. It isn’t even loaded.” That was a lie. I lied.

    “You need help, baby.”

    Sliding off the sink, I bent and picked it up omit -- near her feet . I squeezed past her and through the omit - open (because you can’t squeeze past someone if the door is closed, yes?) door. In the bedroom, I picked up the remote control and sat on the edge of the bed, dropping the gun beside me.

    “...eight...seven...six...” Dick Clark was counting down on the television.

    She appeared in the doorway

    I convinced The Princess, in the first hours of 1995, after the Apple dropped in Times Square, and after she found me in the bathroom with that gun in my hand, and after my annual New Year’s Eve Armaggedon Armageddon anxiety attack had subsided, that I wasn’t really going to shoot myself. And The Princess believed eventually, I suppose. We all believe what we want to believe.
    So true.

    I also promised her that I’d keep the appointment she’d made for me up in Boca Raton and when I did the doctor (shrink) did it! A pharmacist can only dispense pills. pharmacologist put me on Prozac and valium – tell me what this something is … something to help me sleep. He introduced me to a pretty psychiatric social worker, Cindy, who had recently recieved received her Master’s degree from Columbia and had just moved down from New York.
    She still can’t prescribe drugs.

    The forty-five minutes I spent with Cindy in her office, after she graciously made some room on her schedule for me, was spent omit ‘I’ half-listened as she decribed described her I don’t like using a pronoun twice in a sentence. Maybe you can rewrite it. philosophy on making positive changes in one’s life and how she can probably help me with my depression.
    I have to question now where you’re going with the prologue. I expect this scene to repeat itself or pick up somewhere in the manuscript. But given that, I have a difficult time with so little depth given the characters so far. – Who’s this chick anyway? Give me something about her personality that I will remember or at least think she’s human. – The technical term for this type of character is ‘cardboard’ and/or someone who is just filler to move a story, but serve no real purpose.

    The other half of my consciousness, the dominant half, was completely fixated on her beautiful feet. They were perfect. Size six. Maybe six and a half. Size isn’t always important, remember? So I think a flighty description of your feet fetish can suffice. Following the soft, tan skin of her calf and narrow ankle down, way down, rolling under the subtle heel, unhardened by the two-and-a-half short and laborless labor less decades of her apparently priveledged privileged country club life, up across the high, smooth arch, to the dainty little dark-red-nail-polished toes, lined up evenly acoss across the front of her dangling brown leather sandal. I popped a healthy boner.
    Okay, so much for a healthy dose of sexual attraction. Boner isn’t a recent term of endearment, but more seventies or early eighties. Hard-on is more nineties or erection because we’ve become more liberated with out sexuality. (go figure).

    I stopped here because I didn’t see a prologue developing. If you are going to tie all this together in subsequent chapters then I can understand some of it.

    Off to a pretty good start.

    A few months later...

    We were walking across the Aventura Mall parking lot, Morgan Sutcliffe and I, on our way to a quick half-day. Morgan was working for free. I had my toolbelt tool belt slung over one shoulder and two orange and black extension cords over the other, like bands of ammunition. He carried the table saw.

    “So, whatdya think, I’ll start measuring while you go back for the chopsaw?” I said

    It was my job to carry the tools. I knew that.

    Morgan knew that I knew and he plays along with me most times. On this day , he was less than patient.

    “Do me a favor, Willie. My back is ****in’ screwed. Just go get it.” He wasn’t in the mood. “Please.”

    Once inside the frozen yogurt store, the one that was owned by friends of Morgan’s girlfriend Lisa, the friends that took advantage of his amiability and used him for all sorts of nut-humping slavery, I dropped my belt in the back office. I’ll never understand tradesmen who do favors. Bad enough to do it for money.

    “I’ll set up in here,” Morgan said.

    Stewart Stienberg Steinberg was retired, but he ran several of these stores across Dade County for his son, Harvey, a South Beach real estate attorney who used them as a tax write off. They all lost money, no matter how much free work Morgan put into them.

    “Pick me up a large coffee, Willie?” Stewart called from behind the counter as I pushed through the glass door and back out into the mall. “Light, two sugars!”

    I wasn’t getting him any ****ing coffee.

    I did stop at Starbucks, just opening up for the day, for one of my own. Decaf Cappucino Cappuccino Grande, please. Extra cream. As I walked through the echoing halls, empty but for some early clean-up going on here and there, I carefully sipped the scorching liquid, which bounced in the cup and burned my upper lip anyway. Outside, I was about thirty feet from his cruddy Chevy cargo van when Morgan shouted to me from the Mall entrance. He was waving at me.

    “Willie!” he called. “Don’t forget the jigsaw and the inch and a quarter screws!”

    One second I was walking toward the truck, looking at Morgan over my shoulder and sipping my coffee, the next, the ground disappeared under my feet and I fell, straight down, an endless journey that was really only about four or five feet. I landed on the jagged steel remains of the drainage grill that belonged on it’s inch-wide rim at the top of the rectangular hole. The world got swimmy. I struggled against the black blanket I felt wrapping itself around my chest and head, the only parts of me still above ground.

    “Willie!” Morgan screamed, coming toward me fast and pulling me back through the dark waves.

    I realized that the droning hum in the blackness was coming from deep inside of me. I was moaning. I shook my head and my eyes cleared some.

    “Get me up,” I said to Morgan as he knelt beside the hole.

    “Wait a minute, wait.”

    “GET ME UP!”

    “Okay, okay. Can you move?”

    I wasn’t sure. He pulled me hard, both hands, and I fumbled my feet upward along the cement sides of the damp chasm. I layed down flat on the ashphalt asphalt . My jeans were shredded and covered with blood.

    “Get me to the hospital,” I said.

    Jagged little pills, these pellets of pleasure are.

    I’d been like a human being for a while. Therapy had been going well. Not well, exactly. Not like I was learning anything beyond the blissful contours of Cindy’s sublime features, mostly her finely pedicured pedicure and always freely displayed feet. I wondered how she couldn’t notice my obsession with them. God, how I wanted to touch them. She did talk a lot, requiring an unusually minimal input on my part, thus leaving my time for all sorts of indecent, internal reflection including, but not limited to, bending her over her desk and penetrating her roughly, her sundress hiked up around her waist, her smooth, straight, chesnut chestnut hair held tightly back in my clenched fists, pulling hard. Regardless, I really had been feeling a little better. Hadn’t been pensively caressing any weapons, anyway.

    Now, two ruptured vertebral discs, one of them pressing mildly but effectively on a spinal nerve, shooting lightening bolts down my arms. I’d never taken painkillers before. They proved quite convenient. Who’d even know?

    Absolutely ****ing groovy.

    I’d been clean for a while, attending meetings almost every night for a couple of years and I didn’t even realize I had relapsed for a few weeks. That is, until I ran out of pills on the Friday before the long Fourth of July weekend and got the kicks and shakes so bad I had to ask a frequent @!#$-up I knew from the program if he could help me out. Phil just happened to have some leftover Tylenol with Codeine from a toothache he had some time back. They were dreadfully weak but they held me over, a handful at a time. He told me not to tell anyone in the Program about both my own use of the pills or his part in supplying me some emergency low-grade opium.

    Phil DeLeo, a chronic relapser relapse , constantly disappearing for weeks at a time, out on the streets hustling for crack, earned his living in quite an unconventional way. One time he had me follow him into a McDonald’s and witness him slipping on a recently mopped bathroom floor.

    FlimFlam Flimflam Phil gave me the number of his slimy personal injury attorney down in Coral Gables. I settled the case a few months later for seventy-five grand, which I spent on overdue bills, some of Miami’s finest Nicaraguan heroin, and the recording costs of my one and only, self-produced, dreamy and introspective CD that I never managed to sell to a label.

    Have you ever seen a thirty-year-old bald guy debuting on MTV?

    I think not.

  3. #3
    Mitch Barr
    Guest

    Re: Prologue for BLUE COLLAR...

    Jon...

    The thing about a forum like this is how excerpts like this can seem out of context with what follows. I called it a prologue when actually there isn't any...it's just the first chapter, which begins 'in media res'. As far as the grammar, anyone with a literary backtground who has read even the first ten pages comes to see that this is just how Willie speaks. His voice is the single point that most readers agree is the spark that drives this narrative. While I appreciate your thoughts, and don't want to be perceived as "anti-critique" whatsoever, with the exception of the typos that you found(thought I caught all of them by now) I think you're really missing the point. This is a first-person narrative. It is meant to carry the voice of the main character. Also, a PHARMACOLOGIST is not a PHARMACIST. The term psychopharmacologist refers to a psychiatrist who treats patients with meds, no counceling. And Cindy appears just this once, never to be seen again.

    And, really, these aren't characters, but real people in the life of this troubled junkie. They are described as WILLIE sees them, not how one might think to present them in proper literary form.

    Thanks for your input, though.

    Mitch

  4. #4
    SpookyDude
    Guest

    Re: Prologue for BLUE COLLAR...

    Mitch,

    "out of context with what follows" -- sorry, but I didn't take anything out of context. If it is Chapter 1, then say so. I don't believe you can call it a prologue and then when someone critiques it as such, change it to 'oh, it's really chapter 1.'

    Doesn't help the person spending time on your work to be mislead.

    ---

    "Prologue

    South Florida, 1995"

    ---

    Good luck,

    Jon

  5. #5
    Rozinante
    Guest

    Re: Prologue for BLUE COLLAR...

    In Lit Agents, you asked for feedback that is not mere flattery. I'm going to take you at your word and hope you meant it.

    I agree with SpookyDude. It doesn't work for me, either. And for the same basic reasons. Neither as prologue nor chapter one.

    If it's to be prologue, it has to foreshadow and set me up. If we're to start with a prologued suicide incident, we need to come full circle within the prologue. Like hint that it's going to happen again, or the same gun is going to end up pointed at the girl.

    For chapter one, it has to have narrative thrust. For me, it doesn't. It's meandering.

    I understand what you're saying about the character's voice, but the author still has to be responsible for him. The he has to move through a story with some momentum.

    For an excellent example of a character who talks like a very, very "regular guy" but still moves through literary architecture, effortlessly and invisibly, try studying THE MEMORY OF RUNNING by Ron McLarty.

    BTW, the most interesting thing from the sample, for me, is Phil the FlimFlam Artist. You have some good bits and pieces up there, I would suggest giving some more serious thought to structure. Not that you haven't thought about it a lot already, but consider looking at it with new eyes. Hard to hear, I know. But you have some good bricks up there and they might do better if they were rearranged. And you did ask for real feedback, not flattery.

    Just my 2 cents. Good luck with it.

  6. #6
    Rozinante
    Guest

    Re: Prologue for BLUE COLLAR...

    Also...

    "God damn it, Willie. What the @!#$ are you doing?”

    To me, this opening is weak. It just sounds like generic bickering. I would be far more intrigued if he opened with something like:

    I'd have slid the gun under the counter if I'd heard her coming....

    or

    I think maybe I let the gun clatter to the floor just so she would hear it and come running.


    or

    It was my first lie of the day. And the worst. I had a gun in my hand. I'd been caressing it for an hour. (proceed with more descriptive language, leading up to and ending with his lie.) "Nothing," I said.



    Actually, I had written language that fits above but I just didn't feel like posting this kind of thing on the internet.

    Anyway, perhaps it's a matter of taste, but for me you need more tension. Yelling and swearing is not the same as tension. Tension pulls you forward with hints and concealments. Tension begs to be relieved.

  7. #7
    M. Lee
    Guest

    Re: Prologue for BLUE COLLAR...

    Mitch -

    I agree with Roz about moving another line for your opener, but... I liked this. I liked the tone and the flow and I can clearly hear your voice in it all. I'm not an editor or an agent. I'm not even published (yet!), but I am a voracious reader, and this would intrigue me enough to make me want to read more. JMO, though!

    Michelle

  8. #8
    Mitch Barr
    Guest

    Re: Prologue for BLUE COLLAR...

    Please don't take my objections to the above suggestions as a reluctance to accept criticism. I am open to listen to anything and will address suggestions that resonate with me. Proof of that lies in my complete rewriting of the query letter you guys were so helpful with. However, as has been discussed many times around here, you can ask a hundred people for their thoughts and get a hundred different suggestions.

    As far as the opening, I didn't realize the apparently substantial differences between a "prologue" and "chapter one"

    Final word on the subject is, this episode happened EXACTLY as I've written it here and don't plan on changing it. But that doesn't mean I won't take other suggestions along the way that tweak my nipples in such a way that makes me question my original wording. Don't forget, this is the result of several drafts and I've already taken many valued opinions into account regarding structure and grammar and such. And, like I said, I've had enough overwhelmingly positive feedback with regards to the overall voice of this main character that I'm not going to do some line-item nitpicking because the language and style doesn't appeal to absolutely everyone.

    If what I've said might cause some folks to "not waste their time" critiquing something by someone who is only looking for smoke to be blown up their ass, then so be it. I believe I've made it clear that at this point I'm trying to make a decision between novel and, as Ashling White suggested, "creative non-fiction", and NOT trying to rewrite the whole manuscript. It is obvious that if one would find so much "wrong" with these first few pages, then it is fair to assume that the same person would find many similiar "problems" throughout the manuscript, which, like everthing else in the literary wonderland is purely subjective. In my opinion, that would be like Melville changing the whale to a dolphin because people like dolphins more.

    Despite my comments, I really do appreciate the efforts.

    Thanks,

    Mitch

  9. #9
    Jan Helman
    Guest

    Re: Prologue for BLUE COLLAR...

    Off to a pretty good start.

    I'd end the prologue there and start the first chapter here with a few changes as written:

    I’d been like a human being for a while. Therapy had been going well. Not well, exactly. Not like I was learning anything beyond the blissful contours of Cindy’s sublime features, mostly her finely pedicured and always freely displayed feet. I wondered how she couldn’t notice my obsession with them. God, how I wanted to touch them. She did talk a lot, requiring an unusually minimal input on my part, thus leaving my time for all sorts of indecent, internal reflection including, but not limited to, bending her over her desk and penetrating her roughly, her sundress hiked up around her waist, her smooth, straight, chesnut hair held tightly back in my clenched fists, pulling hard. Regardless, I really had been feeling a little better. Hadn’t been pensively caressing any weapons, anyway.

    A few months after my New Year's Eve Armaggedon, Morgan Sutcliffe and I were walking across the Aventura Mall parking lot on our way to a quick half-day. Morgan was working for free. I had my toolbelt slung over one shoulder and two orange and black extension cords over the other, like bands of ammunition. He carried the table saw.


    Continuing on to the point where that first paragraph originally appeared:

    “Get me to the hospital,” I said.

    Jagged little pills, these pellets of pleasure are. Two ruptured vertebral discs, one of them pressing mildly but effectively on a spinal nerve, shooting lightening bolts down my arms. I’d never taken painkillers before. They proved quite convenient. Who’d even know?

    Absolutely ****ing groovy.


    Just my opinion. Feel free to ignore it.

  10. #10
    Gibby
    Guest

    Re: Prologue for BLUE COLLAR...

    Heroin comes from Nicaragua? hmm. . . I haven't heard much about that.

    And the MTV thing? What about Moby?

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