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  1. #1
    Elke S Hoffman

    Help with opening #2

    First of all, thanks to all who responded to my not-very-good debut post. I do have a copy of Sol Stein’s book on order from Amazon…thanks for recommending that!

    I’ll try to correct my initial mistake by posting more material. (Is this too much?) Hopefully this will help the scene make sense. Again, I appreciate any and all input.

    Threading her way through the hallways of the Minneapolis skyway system, Aisha Kenyan pulsed with humanity towards the Palomino Club. She was annoyed because the foot traffic was horribly congested and if she couldn’t break free she would commit a cardinal sin and be late for her appointment. Based on her limited phone conversation with the representative of Philadelphia’s Van Dine Financial Group, tardiness would not be met with approval. He introduced himself as Mister Wendell Thorman, emphasis on mister and arranged, more like demanded this meeting by dangling a big buck carrot under Aisha’s nose exactly at a time when she needed a big buck carrot. Despite the contentious ring to Mr. Thorman’s tone, the fact remained Aisha needed the business and agreed to meet him for cocktails, something she would normally not do.
    The fact it was only Monday afternoon made no difference to the downtown after work crowd and the Palomino was already packed at by the time Aisha arrived. There was not a vacant table to be seen and patrons gathered three deep at the bar. As more raucous barflies elbowed their way inside, Aisha feared she wouldn’t connect with the important sounding man touting the unexpected design project. When speaking with him this morning, Aisha managed to eek out the fact she was five foot nine with dark hair before Thorman blew her off by saying he already knew. She wondered how he knew but shrugged it off as inconsequential.
    Unfortunately since Mr. Wendell Thorman did not offer his own physical description, Aisha was forced to stand in the threshold and wait for him to approach her. That was stupid she chastised herself, beginning to question her decision to snap at Thorman’s bait in the first place. Once again, Aisha found herself on unequal footing with the big shot from Philadelphia and disliking it immensely. But, it was either wait around for Thorman to show up or return to her office in the morning to sniff out new clients. Since Aisha hated marketing, she elected to wait.
    “Ms. Kenyan!”
    “Oh!” Aisha startled. He popped into sight from off to her left. “Mr. Thorman?” Aisha extended her hand. “Aisha Kenyan, nice to meet you.”
    Thorman took her proffered hand brusquely before directing her to a thimble size table he occupied inside the noisy club. He was short and squarely constructed, neatly attired, arrogant in demeanor. Aisha’s nervous system reactivated. The majority of her customers were open and friendly, not domineering and surly. This Thorman character was about as gracious as a starving timber wolf! On the positive side, Thorman apparently had a profitable project, something Aisha could ill afford to spit at right now. She sat where he indicated and waited for him to proceed.
    “What would you like to drink?”
    “Ice tea would be nice, thank you.”
    “Why not order a glass of chardonnay? I’ve selected one that is quite crisp with a just a tiny hint of oak.” Without waiting for Aisha to agree, Thorman waved the waitress and ordered two glasses.
    Just a tiny hint of oak; how pompous is that? Aisha noted his first glass was empty. She assumed it was his first glass. Whatever his project, she found herself hoping he would not be part of the process from this meeting forward. If it turned out Thorman would be actively involved, Aisha quickly determined she would prefer telemarketing!
    “Let me tell you a little about the Van Dine family and Van Dine Financial Group. The Financial Group’s assets run into the billions and the Group has holdings in some thirty odd countries around the globe. Van Dine Financial stock is traded on the New York Stock Exchange, although the Van Dine family still owns thirty-one percent of the paper.”
    Aisha began to wonder why he was telling her this. Whatever project he would outline, Aisha was paid upfront. She did not need to check credit references. But, since Thorman was off and running full speed, Aisha held her tongue.
    “Katherine Van Dine is the last surviving Van Dine.”
    That must be tough duty, Aisha mused as the waitress delivered the chardonnay. What did he say, thirty-one percent of the paper in a billion dollar corporation? Thorman paused to sample a sip. With a nod he indicated Aisha should do the same. Fine, she thought, lifting the glass. The wine was very good.
    “Nice, don’t you think?” Thorman pronounced, obviously believing Aisha not capable of determining whether the wine was nice or not.
    “Yes, it is very nice,” she barely got in before Thorman was off at the mouth again.
    “As I was saying, Katherine Van Dine is the last of the dynasty. Her husband died three months ago and Katherine is known to have no children.” He paused once more to partake of the grape.
    “Or she would be the last except twenty-eight years ago Katherine Van Dine had a child out of wedlock. She was only seventeen at the time.”
    This was more background information than Aisha wanted or needed, but Thorman was well primed and would not be deterred. She took another sip of the chardonnay. The second sip was better than the first.
    “When he learned of his daughter’s pregnancy, Stephan Van Dine, Katherine’s autocratic father demanded she have an abortion immediately. She was scheduled to make her debut the following summer and Stephan determined Katherine would marry well. After all, she had every thing to offer a prospective husband; family name, money, position, you name it, they had it! Also Stephan Van Dine needed an heir apparent to head the Board of Directors and Katherine, through marriage could provide his heir. Katherine herself, Stephan decided was unfit, being female and all that. Stephan Van Dine came from a different generation than you and I, and in his world a female Chairman of the Board was unthinkable.”
    Aisha disliked Stephan Van Dine sight unseen! Growing caught up in his story, she remained silent.
    “Katherine, that crafty little finagler, set out to outwit the old dominion. She blithely agreed with his directive to his face all the while setting plans in motion to disobey his order. Stephan Van Dine went to the grave believing Katherine aborted her illegitimate child per his instructions. But, Katherine got the last laugh; she buried her father knowing she had not.”
    Thorman paused to take another gulp from his glass. Aisha suspected the pause was calculated. That Thorman expected her to make commentary at this point, but she was determined not to fall for his manipulations. Imitating his action, Aisha also raised her glass but Thorman waited her out. Finally Aisha relented, “So, how did she outwit him?”
    Thorman’s triumph did not go unnoticed. “Katherine was sent away for a weekend up to Boston, ostensibly to visit friends. Stephan Van Dine made arrangements through a series of connections for Katherine’s abortion. Keep in mind, this was prior to Roe vs. Wade and abortion wasn’t so easily obtained. Katherine checked in with the doctor at the designated time figuring if Stephan’s spy network looked into the issue, the record would show she had indeed kept the appointment. However, she slipped out of the building before the doctor ever saw her. She then returned to boarding school. After that weekend, she dieted fanatically and wore loose-leaf clothing to conceal her ballooning figure until her baby was due. She went home for visits only during the early stage of her pregnancy. As she neared term, she made up excuses to steer clear of the old homestead. She fooled the lot of them!” Thorman was obviously humored by this fact.
    “When her time came, Katherine paid another visit to another friend from school, whose sister just happened to be engaged to a resident obstetrician. The obstetrician was expecting her arrival. Katherine gave birth to her child and left town three days later.”
    The story was making Aisha goosy. Why was a prospective design client talking to her about some woman’s unconventional childbirth experience? This had nothing to do with her. Spellbinding as the story was, it was still irrelevant to any project Aisha would undertake. Aisha glanced at her watch, noting it was almost six o’clock. Lord, would Thorman please take the hint and get to the point? Aisha wanted to get home! Unfortunately such subtleties were clearly beyond his limited awareness. “Mr. Thorman, at the risk of appearing impatient, what has all this to do with Design Time?”
    Thorman displayed an affected smile. “Humor an out of town guest, will you, Aisha? All of this gossipy sounding information does lead to a point, farfetched as that point may seem. Will you join me in another glass of wine?”
    Her glass was still half full while his was depleted. “No thank you. I’m fine.”
    Thorman did not even listen to her response before summoning the waitress to order another round. Aisha exhaled her annoyance softly. Telemarketing would be a joyous experience after this evening’s interview, she concluded, now resolved to escape as politely as possible the instant opportunity presented itself.
    Thorman continued, “The resident obstetrician who delivered the baby persuaded Katherine to give the child to a couple who thought their unborn baby was stillborn. Unfortunately, the couple was to be kept uninformed.”
    Aisha’s blood pressure mounted.
    “This couple received the devastating news two weeks prior to their anticipated delivery date their baby was dead. Even more devastating; for her own health that poor mother was expected to carry the dead fetus to term and deliver that dead child naturally as if it were a real baby.” Thorman’s voice softened.
    Aisha’s eyes dilated and her breathing became irregular.
    “When that mother went into labor the agony both she and her husband experienced was beyond human endurance. Their precious, long awaited first born child was dead. That poor little baby died even before it could take its first breath of air. But, wait! The couple is joyous!” Thorman paused dramatically.
    Aisha’s heart rate was visible in her throat. She knew the story’s finale.
    “The baby was alive!”

  2. #2

    Re: Help with opening #2

    " . . . Aisha Kenyan pulsed with humanity . . ."

    Sounds unpleasant.

  3. #3
    Cin H

    Re: Help with opening #2

    While reading it you seemed to talk alot about the wine. So much so that I thought that might be part of the plot (I was waiting for one of them to start acting woozy from a GHB slip or something!)
    I'm assuming it's not part of the important story so I would cut much of it out. I started to get bored with the wine scenerios (sp?). I didn't really care if the second sip was better than the first, and for a while it seemed like they were having a drinking contest.
    I wanted the story to move along.
    Why are they conducting a business meeting in a bar that's packed 3 deep with people and raucous barflies elbowing their way in? Sounds like a Friday night during a playoff game, or a college bar.
    If I was Aisha I would be pissed and calling him in the morning to cancel
    I know you're trying to convey confusion and uncertainty at locating the man in the bar but if he didn't want her to be late he shouldn't have suggested meeting at the Minneapolis skyway system in a rowdy bar.
    You might want to clarify what exactly that is. My first thought was that it was at the airport?
    Anyway I think it's a good story, just try not to linger too long in one scene...that's the problem I often have in my novel. Try to move the storyline along and take out some things that aren't relevant to the plot without compromising your scene.
    My opinion.

  4. #4
    Paul Harris

    Re: Help with opening #2

    There's a funny scene in 'Amadeus' where the emperor tells Mozart that his music has too many notes. There are too many words here and, unlike Mozart, they fail to create or convey any type of emotion.

    “Oh!” Aisha startled. - I say nay, nay to this sentence.

    I suggest going back to the beginning and approaching this as if you were telling a story instead of writing one. Perhaps that will make your writing come across as less forced and mechanical.

    Too many words.

  5. #5
    Blair M

    Re: Help with opening #2

    Overall, it's not bad.
    Regarding Cin's comments, for all we know maybe the guy had a good reason to meet her in that bar. He's a regular? His office is round the corner? Maybe he wasnt expecting it to be so busy?
    The fact they're drinking wine as they're talking keeps it in real time, but I agree that most of it is a bit irrelevant. It would matter if the second sip was better if it showed she was relaxing, but she isnt. She's getting more uptight.
    To be honest, there is quite a lot here to comment on but one thing I would like to say is the exclamation marks dont work very well. You shouldnt need them, as the joke should speak for itself. It works ok in dialogue, but I always regard them as laughing at ones own joke so would use them with caution.

  6. #6
    Chuck Shaw

    Re: Help with opening #2

    I have to agree with other comments that this is overwritten. The opening of any communication, verbal or written, has to present something of interest. You may get away with being wordy AFTER you have captured the reader's interest. Not before.

    Take a look at Alistair McLean's "When Eight Bells Toll", a real oldie available almost anywhere dirt cheap. The first paragraph contains run on sentences, jumps in tense and every other "writing error" you can think of, but it grabs the attention.

    Does your start generate curiosity? Excitement? Arousal? If not why should anyone read on?

    One (unpublished) author's opinion.

  7. #7
    Joe Trent

    Re: Help with opening #2

    Put together a one-sentence description of your book. Now, where does that story begin? You have a meeting and a lot of back story. Why should I wade through this back story and why should I care that the baby lived?

    You can fill in the details about the rich lady and the baby as you go. But give me a reason to care about the protagonist first, or I won't buy the book.

  8. #8
    Gregory White

    Re: Help with opening #2

    overwritten is a good description.

    I would definitely dump phrases used such as:

    "based on ..."

    "the fact it was only ...."

    also, dump those words that end in LY. I never really understood what the problem was with too many "ly" words until reading the above post. Such as "horribly congested" --- just say it was too crowded for her comfort.

    after that, you should end up with a nice little piece of work.


  9. #9
    Elke S Hoffman

    Re: Help with opening #2

    I hope I have not waited too long to post a 'Thank-You' to all who responded. Your opinions are a great deal of help. Now I have the 'word machete' in hand and am back to work. Thanks again!

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