Wednesday, March 11, 2009

#4 1000 Words

TITLE: The Brevity Of Roses
GENRE: Mainstream



Meredith sat at her usual corner table in Coelho’s finest French restaurant making a fool of herself. Over a man, of all things. Minutes earlier, she had glanced up from her scallops Proven├žal to see the three younger women at a table across the room all staring wide-eyed toward the dining room entrance. She followed their gaze. They watched a man—a handsome, almost exotic man—as the host led him to a table. The shock of recognition nearly choked her.

Although his face angled away, he had to be Ravi. As he took his seat at a nearby table, she dropped her gaze and laid down her fork. She grabbed her wine glass and drained it to give her heart time to find its normal rhythm. A mixture of joy and fear and memory, jumbled her thinking. Should she speak to him? No, let him make the first move. Should she try to leave now before he noticed her? Useless; he knew where she lived. She was the only reason he would be in town. But why would he turn up here after all these years?

What would he see, when he looked at her now? She tucked a lock of hair behind one ear and straightened her neckline. If only she were wearing something in salmon, Ravi had loved her dressed in that color. He said it brought out the blue in her eyes, but it had been years since she owned anything in—

All these years.

She looked at him again. His eyes were downcast, his face partly hidden behind a menu, but she could see his hairline, his smooth brow, his hands. Her spirits plunged. He wasn’t Ravi. Of course, he wasn’t. This man was too young.

My lord, what if she had called out Ravi’s name? She ducked her head. Her face flamed and her hand shook as she poked her fork around the remains of her lunch. She breathed in little sips and puffs until her common sense self took over and forced her to slow down, breathe deeply, find her center. A minute later, she dared a quick study while the man gave his order. Then, she signaled for a refill.

She kept up the pretense of reading. From time to time, she sipped her third glass of wine and looked up as if to glance casually around the room, but her eyes always darted toward him for another look. He read now. This preoccupation is ridiculous. She forced her attention back to her article and read the same paragraph three times without comprehension. This behavior verges on obsession.

She looked up again, but this time, out the window, away from him. The rain-laden clouds had offered only a false promise. If she left now, she would have plenty of time to garden before sunset. Or maybe she should stop by the salon; see if Teri could work her in for a style change. Speaking of which, Judith had been after her to “knock fifteen years off” her wardrobe for quite awhile, so maybe her time would be better spent shopping. Anyway, it must be nearly three o’clock. She should leave. What excuse did she have for lingering here?

Meredith finished her wine and sighed. She had fought—and lost—the struggle. Turning away from the window, she picked up her magazine. She couldn’t leave now; he hadn’t even been served yet.

Unlike her friends, Meredith seldom encouraged desiring looks from men, but she knew she attracted her share of them. She just never imagined herself on the giving end. She simply did not stare at strange men. But, how could she ignore this one? This man with his beautiful skin—like fine tea-colored silk—reminding her of Ravi’s. His hair, as black as any she had ever seen, curled down to his shoulders, and if he chanced to look up from the book he now read, she knew his eyes would seem as deep and dark as temple pools on a moonless night. And his mouth—

“Would you like me to bring you another glass of the pinot grigio?” asked the server.

Startled, she said, “What?” and then, “Oh! Yes, please.”

Soon, she would order coffee, and if she ordered dessert, that could prolong her stay even more. Now, what had she been thinking before the server interrupted her? Oh, yes, his mouth. She smiled at her silliness. You would think she spent her days reading romance novels rather than anthropology journals. All right then. Be serious. She would look at him that way; what could his ancestry be—was it Indian, Greek possibly, or Middle Eastern … ahhh … a Persian Prince?

Oh, my. Meredith took a deep breath and tried to clear her head.

She focused on his book, which she recognized and didn’t think much of, but at least he seemed too absorbed to notice her scrutiny. What concerned her were those three women at the table just beyond his—fringe members of her social circle—who had, by now, noticed her fascination. She caught their glances, their quiet laughter, and knew they judged her pathetic. Even though Meredith’s friends joked about the water supply to her house being piped directly from the fountain of youth, clearly, she was too old for this man.

Yet, there she sat.

Now on her fourth glass of wine, she wondered if he might be a lonely traveler who would welcome her as a tour guide—an interpreter even—though she had grown rusty in most of the languages she knew, and if he spoke Farsi, well to be honest, she was never fluent in that to begin—

Good lord. What was she thinking? It was time to order that coffee. Strong coffee. A double espresso.

Oh!

She found herself looking straight into his eyes.

Frozen in mid-stare, Meredith watched him speak briefly with the server, then push his chair back, pick up his book, drop it in his leather messenger bag and—Oh, my lord!—walk directly toward her table.

26 comments:

Peter said...

I started reading this at a remove, distant from the scene but got completely sucked in and by the end was just shocked out of my reading by the ending of the 1000 words. The characterizations really caught me with both the humor and the tension.

I really enjoyed the dichotomy between the long paragraphs and the short one sentence 'kickers' between them, like a beating heart skipping a beat every so often.

This is 100% NOT my genre and I really enjoyed this.

ldpauling said...

I loved the humor of your mc's personality. It read fast. I just didn't recognize the humor in the beginning. So I felt a little mislead when this guy wasn't Ravi, but you created a reaction in me, which is good.

Every once in a while you would shift the pov and address the audience with a statement beginning with You... Or you would have a less noticeable pov shift and go from deep pov to a story teller pov. Those points jarred me because most of the time we're right in her head, experiencing this with her, knowing her thoughts. I think you need to be consistent.

The Author said...

ldpauling, Would you please explain further what you mean by the second half of your comment? I certainly thought I stayed in deep pov (although the italics in the direct thought statements were lost in translation)so if I strayed, I need help seeing that.

Judy said...

I am guessing from the start that this is a romance novel, which is not something I usually read, but the story drew me in. I loved your character and her thinking process. I would continue to read to find out if the man is going to introduce himself.

Eric said...

I am definitely not a romance novel reader, but I do have to admit that your capturing of the main character and her personality is incredible. The little breaks in thought process, the distraction, everything. Despite my lack of interest in most romance novels, this did hold my attention to see what was going to happen. A couple things I noticed:

"If only she were wearing something in salmon, Ravi had loved her dressed in that color." I could be wrong on the grammar, but this to me would sound better as two sentences or maybe a semicolon between them.

"She kept up the pretense of reading. From time to time, she sipped her third glass of wine and looked up as if to glance casually around the room, but her eyes always darted toward him for another look. He read now. This preoccupation is ridiculous. She forced her attention back to her article and read the same paragraph three times without comprehension. This behavior verges on obsession." You seem to change tense here, from past to present to past to present. It was a little distracting and disjointed, but maybe thats the point?

All in all, this is good stuff. I'm curious about the title, as it evokes an interesting image.

Scott said...

Title - great! I would pick up this book in Borders on the title alone, just to see what the book was about.

I love the feeling of excitement/discomfort of the character when she thinks and then realizes the man is not Ravi. How often have we all had the same moment of 'recognition' only to experience the same moment of discomfort? Very well written.

The humor of the main character also comes across as well. Very well written.

Liz C said...

I enjoyed it - seems like a fun read! The scene did seem a little drawn out, but I found it easy to follow. I noticed a few punctuation/grammar issues but I'm certainly not one to talk!

The Author said...

Eric, I think, now, this is probably what ldpauling found jarring also. The lines you cited that changed tense were written that way on purpose. In the original, they are in italics to indicate direct thought. It's a literary technique to use direct thought within third-person past tense for strong resolve, realization, or emotion. But perhaps I should rethink the usage, if it's tripping up people.

Also, this is mainstream, not romance, though it starts with a romantic element.

Amy Nathan said...

I'm definitely curious about what's next, but am a little bit thrown by what seems like a formality of Meredith's lunch. It distracted me - the wine (4 glasses? I'd be looped) the fancy food etc. I loved the detail and imagery, it's just something to consider upon your revisions - if it takes away from the story - or not.

I'm also curious as to the genre, is it romance?

Again, I like Meredith and want to know who the man is - I'd keep reading!

The Author said...

Oh, pretty please, if you find any errors in grammar and punctuation, do cite them. I'll be obsessively searching for them forever otherwise. :-)

Dominique said...

I LOVED the voice. I got completely sucked into the story and the characters.

At the end, I'd reccommend changing 'Oh, my lord!' to 'Dear God,' because the use of my, at least for me, smacks of the character's POV and not of a 3rd person narrator.

Also, you've a comma error in the 2nd paragraph: "A mixture of joy and fear and memory, jumbled her thinking."

DrunkenRaine said...

I was pleasantly surprised by the movement and feel of this. I love the fact that she thinks it's Ravi, starts freaking out, and then realizes it's not him, but still can't tear herself away. For some reason, I see Diane Lane doing this. Don't ask me why.

I love the voice of the piece and would pick it up definitely.

ldpauling said...

Sorry, I've been away all day. I'll write the sentences that seemed to leave the pov. It might have been only 1 or 2. In all fairness, I should have given examples earlier. Sorry.

Addressing the reader:

You would think she spent her days reading romance novels rather than anthropology journals. (Even if you had this italicized, she wouldn't be thinking in terms of you)

Slipping out of deep 3rd person pov: (at least to me)

Even though Meredith's friends joked about the water supply to her house being piped directly from the fountain of youth.

(I think it's b/c you use her name here at the start of the sentence when this is more of an indirect thought. I think if you substituted her in place of Meredith. People don't use their names in their thoughts, direct or indirect.)

Unlike her friends, Meredith seldom encouraged desiring looks from men, but....
(this is you as the author telling us this about Meredith)

I think when you are describing an action and you use her name, it's fine. But, if you are sharing personal info or an indirect thought, using her name jumped out at me.

I know, big deal. Three measly sentences. I just know it jumped out at me b/c this was so deep in her pov, which I love!

I also love the line about the persian prince.

From what I am learning it's okay when using 3rd person to zoom in and out of deep pov to a more limited pov and somewhere imbetween. But in these cases it didn't work for me for the above reasons. If anyone else wants to jump in on that, please do. I'm by no means the expert. :)

And this second time around, looking more carefully at the sentences, I noticed a lot of rhetorical questions. Maybe some of those could be statements.

Great writing. Great character.

The Author said...

ldpauling, thanks so much for the taking the time to be more specific for me. I understand what you're saying and will revise.

Kat said...

I like this! The voice of the MC is fresh and interesting.

I agree with another comment, the 'my lord' doesn't work well with the 3rd person tense. Maybe "Oh lord, what if she had called out Ravi's name?" would work better instead.

And it seemed to me that Meredith is a total lush! Downing four glasses of wine then planning to garden or go shopping. Maybe it's just my perspective, but I would be way too tipsy to do any of those.

Overall good job! This isn't really my genre but I found myself being pulled in.

Megs said...

*** Haven't read the other comments yet. Sorry if repeating stuff.

- Good start.

- Why was he exotic. Or what made him exotic?

- "My lord" - I'm trying to figure out if this is a slip in pov. :]

- breathed in little sips and puffs <- not sure about this. Until I read the second time, I though she was chugging her drink again.

- One thing I noticed - There are a lot of "She [verb]" sentence beginnings. Might want to look for ways to break them up, try to mix things up a little.

- While I don't mind her dithering, I was more curious about her history with Ravi. Maybe more of that, even if it is just hints. :]

***

This could use some tightening up, and I wanted more focus on the guy in the latter half. But I like this.

Good luck!

sheri said...

I am sure if italics were added in places the author mentioned previously, POV would work better.

In general, I was drawn in and carried along...almost at an excrutiating pace. (Don't worry, that is a compliment!)

I would definitely keep reading.

Writeaholic said...

I like the voice in this -- her little moments of internal monologue were cute and gave me a real sense of her as a character. She is embarrased at her interest in the attractive man, which shows me she feels uncomfortable in her own skin. She is older but she feels young inside and her feelings are at odds with how she thinks she should act. Good internal conflict, which makes me intrigued to see how this turns out.

I think to improve this, you might separate out the moments of internal monologue from the moments of narrative, setting them off in italics, which I think is an acceptable convention. It would make it clearer and would add to the comic feel to her self-doubt.

Lots of potential for an interesting story given her attraction of the man and his coming over to her table. I would read on to see what happens next!

Lori said...

Unfortunately, I found my attention wavering throughout most of this scene. The Is he/Isn't he internal debate goes on much too long, IMHO. Then, once the protagonist is sure it isn't Ravi, everything goes into Telling mode. Nothing new is happening. Plus, I'm sorry, but this all felt a little cliche to me--broken-hearted girl angsting over a lost love after maybe having seen them. It's a scenario that's been done, a lot.

Also, I'd recommend NOT using a phrase like Minutes earlier anywhere in your story, as that automatically tells your reader your shifting into backstory. If this event happened only moments ago, why not start your story in that actual moment, since that's where the plot-motivator seems to have been born for this novel.

Good luck!

acpaul said...

Caveat: I don't read romance. I rarely read mainstream.

That, said. Wow. You really got into your characters head and made me happy to be there.

>>>A mixture of joy and fear and memory[,<- remove comma] jumbled her thinking.<<<

I didn't see the POV problems other had, it seemed to me that they'd be solved by putting them in italics, to indicate direct thoughts. A pity the formatting was lost in translation.

I would read on, in spite of myself. Just to see why he was coming to sit with her. I'll be thinking about this all day. Is he Ravi's son, perhaps? Or Ravi, having found the actual fountain of youth?

You see? You did your job and hooked me.

Ann E. Bryson said...

I was drawn into this story. You have such a strong MC. The voice was so strong. I like the build of emotion when she thinks it's Ravi. I love her awkwardness.

"Although his face angled away, he had to be Ravi." This is an awkward sentence. The first part doesn't depend on the other.

"Her common sense self" doesn't work for me. Maybe her rational side?

You have some tense issues--I'm wondering if there were supposed to be some italicized thoughts.

Sea Hayes said...

You've got a great voice, but I do agree it goes on for too long and I think everyone else has addressed the POV problems. I'd read, but would prefer for this to be tighter.

Craven said...

Let me start by saying I don't normally read romance, but this worked for me.

Let's contrast this to story #3. Both have meals as opening scenes, but this does some things the previous story did not. This feels like we are going somewhere, that action is taking place. The story is moving right along, no breaks for flashbacks, no wondering what we've stepped into.

Second, and vitally important, we have been well intorduced to the main character, hear her voice in our ears, and are already empathizing with her. We wnat to know what happens next.

Good work.

Bill Cokas said...

I'll agree with those who read neither romance nor mainstream but were drawn in anyway. The voice kicks in very soon and is thoroughly engaging and personal. Wondering what she looks like/how old she is. Also wondering where this is taking place (don't know "Coelho").

Four glasses of wine does seem excessive for mid-day. Maybe cap her off at three, unless that's part of her character. The term "handsome and somehow exotic" doesn't do the guy justice up front--get more specific. You do later with his hair and skin, but as a first impression, it seems too generic.

Having trouble grasping the real conflict here. Since it's not Ravi after all, the conflict isn't that she might have to confront him, or what their past consisted of. Is the conflict that she's hot for this young guy, but is too inhibited to act on it? Could be, and then with him coming over he could be forcing her hand. But that doesn't seem "big" enough to launch a book with, unless it's symbolic of something else. What's Meredith's "big dilemma?"

I also agree with the one comment that said if humor is going to be an ongoing element, to introduce it sooner and make sure we know it's part of the voice.

Pace, varying sentence length, command of language: all great!

galvin said...

I like this. The writing is close, almost stream of consciousness. The only thing that took me out of her thinking was the naming her again when I already knew who she was, as if she were being re-introduced:

>Meredith finished her wine and sighed.

The pronoun works best, especially when I’m reading along with her, seeing through her eyes, alone with her, other characters only observed.. And there is a slight exotic flavor to some of the writing, almost ESL:

>Meredith seldom encouraged desiring looks from men,

I edited several novels for an Indian woman, and she sometimes used overly-modest phrasing like that, but she was writing from an Indian perspective. Meredith has blue eyes, so probably is European. But maybe I’m wrong.

I must confess a slight misunderstanding, but that’s my fault entirely. After all these years, Meredith has grown older, but Ravi has not. I was wowing at the subtle clues for what I expected to be a sort of adult fantasy. Is it a version of Dorian Grey? An Immortal? Vampire?

Nothing like that in Mainstream; I should’ve paid more attention to Genre. Just a down to earth encounter. Very well written. Too bad I seldom read this genre. I may be missing a lot.

Best of luck.

Susanne said...

I want to keep reading. I agree with most of the comments on pov, etc. so I won't repeat, except for the four glasses of wine. No way!
I was having a little trouble with setting. Where are they and how would she know she was the only reason Ravi would be in town? After all this time (how much time - all these years?) wouldn't his situation have probably changed?

Another puzzlement to me - why would her friends judge her as pathetic? I found that paragraph totally out of place unless there's some point I'm missing. How would they know just because she's watching him that she has the hots for him, which I'm not convinced is the emotion she's displaying - it sounds more like fear, nerves, etc. but not lust. And hey, as a forty-something year old female, if one of my friends was interested in a younger guy, I'd tell her to go for it and wish her the best of luck!!!

Overall I think this has great tension and lots of potential. Needs some fixing, but I would keep reading.