Thirteen lines…what’s the gee-whiz?

1-mouse Regular readers of this blog may remember that I’m following along with the Writing Excuses master class in fiction writing. Slowly. As in, I’m still working on assignments that were given back in April, but at least I’m working on them. For the assignment I’m on right now, I’m supposed to share the first 13 lines of a story, and then ask alpha readers—that would be you, if you choose to accept the assignment—what they think the “gee-whiz” of the piece is. In other words, what is the reason for telling the story? Is it a certain interesting society, character, piece of tech, kind of magic, or what? In that spirit, I’m sharing the first 13 lines of a story I’m writing, and asking for responses. Can you guess/predict the gee-whiz?

Kimberley savored a celebratory caramel macchiato in the coffee garden across from campus. Her eyes rested on a bed of pink tulips under a flowering crabapple tree as a light bubble of joy filled her chest. Her old implant pinged. Even before installing her upgrade, she was already thinking of her implant as the “old” one. Marco’s tone. She bit her lip. She’d hoped to tell her mother about her placement first. Mom would have the perfect reaction, but Kimberley’s ping to her had so far gone unanswered. She planned to tell Marco, too, though his response might dampen her mood.

As if anything could. He might not be as happy for her as she might wish, but they would both get over it. And she wanted to hear about his placement. She clicked her tongue to open a line, said, “Hey.”

“Did you find out yet?”

“Yes. How about you?”

“Skank! You first.”

There they are. The first 13 lines, at least in my web browser. Any impressions regarding genre, tone, conflict, story question or characters are welcome, but I’m particularly interested in what you think the “gee-whiz” might be.

In other news, Cookie, Sis, and I just got back from England and France. Photos and anecdotes coming soon…

Writing Excuses 10.5 — Part 3

As in the two previous posts, a character I created is walking through a marketplace to perform a dead drop. This character is different from the characters in the last 2 posts. See if you can figure out the job, hobby, and emotional state.
Angela stepped off the bus and held her hand up to her forehead, surveying the French market through watery eyes. She blinked to clear her vision. A gray-haired woman jostled her as she exited the bus and  strode to the far end of the stalls. Angela would have shrugged had she possessed the energy. She could do worse than to follow. Throngs filled the aisle that ran between the market stalls. In the noon sunlight the patrons’ casual clothing, the piles of produce, the stands of flowers—everything seemed too bright. Amid the murmur and chatter of voices she could make out the amplified sound of a man singing and strumming a guitar. She suffered the sweaty mass of cheery humans until she located him. Past a display of leather goods, a blond walrus of a man sat on a tall stool. His guitar rested against his great belly, held in place by a diamond-patterned strap in neon yellow and green. He played some insipid old song which she’d heard before but couldn’t quite place, then swung into a patter about his CDs. The crowd started drifting off. He cut his spiel short and began to pluck the syncopated introduction to “Bésame Mucho.” His playing was nearly as good as some she’d heard in the clubs. Despite herself, Angela felt her hips want to sway and her dragging steps to morph into the moves of a dance. She stopped, really looking at him for the first time, noting his faded jeans and ancient Eagles t-shirt. He was already watching her; his wink was barely discernible through the pouches of flesh sagging below his blue-green eyes. If she’d felt more like herself she would have either laughed at the man’s impudence, or glared. Had he thought it funny to launch into a Spanish song just because he’d noticed her deeply tanned skin, her dark eyes and hair? And Bésame Mucho? Kiss him a lot? No lo creo! He half-closed his eyes and began singing. His accent was better than she would have expected. She looked at the CD racks on either side of his open guitar case, its deeper side scattered with bills and coins. Karen had said to leave her packet where “pájaro herido” played. The musicians in this market changed every couple of hours. Karen said she couldn’t confirm their exact schedule, so Angela didn’t even know if this man was the one she needed to find. Nothing about him suggested a broken bird. With his eyes closed, though, he seemed less threatening. She moved closer. The muscles of the musician’s right forearm bunched and loosened as he played. A dark discoloration moved along with his muscles, and Angela tried to make sense of it. It was too dark and thin-edged to be a bruise. As she studied it, it resolved itself into a kind of design, and she realized what it must be. It looked like most of a bird, its wings spread. Someone had inked this man, but done a poor job of it. What had they used, a sewing needle? There was a gap in the tail section, as if the artist—if the tattooer deserved that title—had pulled the skin taut rather than letting it lie naturally as he inked. Idiot. But it told Angela one thing. She had found her broken bird. She felt inside her purse for a folded, taped dollar bill. Inside this dollar was a post-it note with a combination of letters and numbers which meant nothing to Angela. She dropped the taped bill into the player’s open guitar case and looked for the quickest way out of the market.

Writing Excuses 10.7 — another character

show-your-work-cover1 Showing my work again…thanks Austin Kleon!
Aaand the Writing Excuses assignments keep on coming! In this exercise we were supposed to take one of the characters from Exercise 10.5, find a secondary character in that character’s scene, and rewrite the same scene from the secondary character’s point of view. I chose the musician who appeared during Angela’s dead drop mission.
As Leif scrolled to the next song on his iPad, he glanced at the top of the screen. Already 12:48. If the courier was going to appear today, it better be soon. The next busker was supposed to start playing at 1. He could put his guitar away last, leaving its case open for a last-minute delivery, but that would be unnatural. A pain in the ass, really. He’d wait a bit longer. He mopped his sweating forehead, shoved his bandana into his back pocket, and strummed the opening to “Margaritaville.” The majority of Saturday shoppers paid him no attention at all. He played on one side of the market’s central aisle. Folding chairs for listeners were arranged on the opposite side. It was a shitty setup. The only people in the audience area were those who really needed to sit—old people, some using walkers or canes, the occasional heavily pregnant woman. That was his audience, pretending to listen because it was polite. They were loving the Jimmy Buffett, though. Since most of the audience seemed to be at least 50, he played a lot of oldies. It was the least he could do. None of his original stuff, of course. This suburban French market just wasn’t the place for it. Besides, what if they hated it, started walking away, pushing their walkers as fast as they could? He got enough rejection from the serious venues he tried to book; he didn’t need it from people who were only killing time. Some of the more able-bodied market-goers looked apologetic as they interrupted the sight lines between him and his “audience,” but that didn’t stop them from passing. “Margaritaville” was over. He should pack up, but he couldn’t leave until he was sure he’d given the courier every opportunity to make the drop. He started shilling, surveying the crowd as he did so. That’s when he saw a small Latina. Her left arm was scrolled in shades of pink, gold, and green from wrist to shoulder. The intricate leaf-and-branch design incorporated rosebuds and butterflies. The right side of her neck sported a beautiful pink lotus blossom. Karen had said the courier would easily spot him because of his long-regretted, self-inflicted tattoo. She hadn’t given a reason, but it was obvious. The arriving woman knew ink. What she didn’t seem to know was that his guitar case was her intended target. Her eyes were red and she wore a dazed look, due either to drugs or a lot of crying. Now that he got a good look at her, she seemed barely functional. Her steps dragged, as if she had to remind herself to walk. If only he could ask her for the package, but Karen had been clear. He couldn’t talk to the courier at all. He could play, though, and sing. Let her know she was in the right place. If he knew her favorite song, he’d play that. Unfortunately, he wasn’t a mind-reader. He only had one shot, an old Mexican standard. “Bésame Mucho.” He hadn’t played it for a while, but he used to do a kick-ass version of it. It might confuse the pasty-white market patrons, but it was just one song. They’d get over it. He plucked the intro. The tattooed Latina stopped in her tracks and looked straight at him. Karen might flip, but he winked—the smallest wink he could manage. She took it the wrong way, shrinking even further into her own skin. Had he blown it? Oh, well, he was committed now. He pushed her apparent revulsion from his thoughts and began to sing. As always, the music filled him. His eyes drifted closed. He felt a presence and opened his eyes in time to see her drop a folded bill into his open guitar case. He tried to give the nod every busker knew, the subtle thanks for a donation, but she was already retreating the way she had come. He skipped the instrumental bridge and repeat, fading out to create a quick ending. It was 12:55, anyway. Time to stop before his replacement complained to the market manager. He scooped coins and bills out of the guitar case, cramming them into his front hip pockets. Damn, his jeans were tight. His belly flapped over his belt. He looked like hell. No wonder the woman had flinched at his song choice. Any decent-looking female would be creeped out if someone like him seemed to be coming on to her. Screw it. If she’d brought what Karen promised, Leif would soon be swimming in women. He trundled his guitar, CDs, and extra mic stand to his truck and loaded up. Before climbing in, he emptied his pockets onto the driver seat and found the dollar bill he was looking for, the only one that was taped closed. Using the small blade of his Swiss army knife, he cut the tape. Inside, he found a long yellow post-it note covered with grouped letters that formed no recognizable words, interrupted in a few spots by numbers. The numbers would let him know which pages of The Magic Mountain would unlock his coded message to reveal its actual meaning.