Scene Excerpt: 75 Miles to Montauk – Friendly’s

On my Pinterest page for the novel, you’ve seen a small, innocent looking picture of a Friendly’s.  This is the beginning of that scene, where it all starts to come together.  This is a first draft.  It will be tightened, less tell etc.  The POV will definitely change to omni.  But for a first draft I’m pleased with it.

***

New York.  He was in New York.  Evan was not happy about this.  Not the destination so much as the entire experience.  He could live here, sure.  But why?  New York?  Rent through the roof, pay rock bottom, competition out the door, for the possible opportunity to tell the same lies.  Damn.

“Stay there, Slinky.  I’ll be back soon dear.”  A woman breezed through the doors, which was noteworthy because Evan took note of her.  Normally he ignored the locals.  This lady couldn’t help but make an impression.   She was tall and curvy, carrying a few extra pounds no one would think to call “fat”.  She had hit that golden age where, by appearance, she could be someone’s mother or grandmother with equal ease.  Her travel stained raincoat seemed way too practical considering her large, colorful earrings (were those parrots?).  Her smile seemed to say “you may not be someone I know, but I like you anyway.”  She settled into a booth then scanned the menu with a sigh.    Having nothing else better to do, Evan settled down to watch her settle as his food arrived.

“Hello menu, what’s good?”  He half wondered if “menu” would respond before he caught himself.  This was good.  His reporter instinct was kicking in – the patented Peter Parker spidey senses tingled.  “No, menu, that’s too fatty.  Thanks anyway.  But no salads either, dear.  Strictly for rabbits.  Come on menu,” she encouraged, “surprise me.”  Without warning she looked at him, eyes sparkling.  “What about it?”  She indicated his plate.  “That looks delicious.”

“Belgian waffle.”

“Caden Parks, nice to meet you.”

He was in New York on gut instinct.  Why not?  Without preamble he gathered his food and slid in across from her.  “What kind of name is Caden?”

If anything, her eyes sparkled just a bit more as she unwrapped her cutlery.  “It means “we really wanted a boy”.  In Welsh.”  She speared a square of his waffle for emphasis.

Evan felt a knot loosening, ever so slightly.  When he smiled tension eased from his face.  When did he acquire a tense face?  “It’s a pleasure to meet you, Caden Parks.  Evan Lamarr.”

“You’re not from around here are you?”  It was not a question.

“Boulder, by way of New Orleans.”

“Right.”  Caden waved over the slightly confused waitress who had returned to check on Evan’s now empty table.  “I’ll have one of him.”

The girl offered a startled look before plastering the trademarked “whatever the customer wants” smile firmly in place.  “That’s great, be right up.”  She walked away, scribbling.  Evan could only hope she wrote down “Belgian waffle” and not “bored black guy from Boulder.”  Though that did lead the imagination down some interesting paths.

Caden casually forked another bite from his plate.  Myrna held the opinion that all food was communal, but he’d never met anyone else who was so nonchalant about the idea.  Usually he would have made at least a token protest, but something about Caden disarmed him.  He pushed the plate into the middle of the table and started working from the other side.  “You’re from here?”

“Oh, no dear.  I’m from Stony Brook.”  His puzzled look seemed to amuse her.  “That’s thataway, you see.”  She made a vague but musical gesture to the left.   “I’m on a bit of an adventure.”

He nodded sagely (when did he develop a sage nod?)  “Not all who wander are lost”.

“Precisely!”  She flourished the fork like a small sword.  “Damn the orcs, full speed ahead!”  She suddenly became still, her gaze fixed in the middle distance.  “Though I do wonder about My Precious.”

His grin took on a slightly maniacal edge, rubbing his hands together.  “My… Precious?  Is it.. sweet?  Is it… juicy?”

Caden looked offended.  “You realize Bilbo cheated, don’t  you?  That was no riddle.  “What’s in my pocket?”  Honestly.”

“Sure he did.  “Bilbo cheated” is the second most popular convention T-shirt.”

“What’s the first?”

“Han shot first.”

“Course he did.”

Not even half a waffle, and it was getting hard to remember he and Caden hadn’t walked in together.  As she rooted around the waffle for more strawberries he caught himself about to ask her if she knew how Myrna was doing.  He was almost afraid to – she just might tell him.

Scene Excerpt: 75 Miles to Montauk

Of course they got caught!

***

“They think we’re part of a… a… conspiracy theory!”  For the first time in a very long time, Caden was angry.

“We are part of a conspiracy theory.”  Muffled in his arms, Evan’s voice still carried.

“That’s hardly the point.”

“They don’t really think that.”  For once Julie was calm, reasonable.

“My ears must deceive me.”

“It’s what they want you to hear.”

“What?”

Julie warmed to her topic.  “Conspiracy theory is sort of a code.  They want us to think they’re blowing us off.  They’re just testing us.”

“For what?’  Tristan seemed neither angry nor bitter.  He was just curious.

“To see how serious we are.”  Julie looked around.  “Am I the only person who saw Close Encounters of the Third Kind?”

“No dear,” Caden replied wearily, eyeing the bars.  “You’re just the only one who took it seriously.”

 

Scene Excerpt: 75 Miles to Montauk

I’ll probably tinker with it a bit, but this is the first draft version of the opening scene of my new novel.

++++

Over the years Caden had grown used to her own voice.  Her habit of speaking her thoughts out loud turned a few heads in local stores, but she didn’t notice.  Long ago Caden had given over her idea of friendship to inanimate objects. They seemed to understand when her more mobile friends had all but given up.  Just so long as they didn’t talk back it was all good.

“Come on, keys!  Out we go.  Once more into the breech, eh?”  Keys made a familiar, welcome jingle in return.  They seemed eager for another try.  Map, snug in her back pocket and worn from much use, encouraged her out the door.

Today she decided to take Raincoat with her. It had long ago ceased to be “the raincoat”, its travel stained seams having earned it the right of familiarity long ago. It joined Flashlight in the seat beside her.  Flashlight was a permanent resident in the car, smug in its ever ready state, banishing any hint of shadowed mystery neither of them had a use for.

And, of course, there was Slinky. Her dear companion of many adventures. Slinky had been something of an indulgence after the divorce, her one nod to unexpected, joyous midlife freedom.  A Grand Am, Slinky wasn’t terribly exotic unless you considered her odd orange-red color.  The car wasn’t even new. No matter. Neither was Caden.

Sometimes she wondered why she bothered with the apartment at all. Her boots waited where she had left them, huddled by the door lest she track backwoods mud onto a carpet that reminded Caden too much of her mother.

Scene Excerpt: 75 Miles to Montauk

This quicky written in honor of an idea from Vici Doore.  Thanks Vici!

***

Tristan huddled over the map, his long fingers tracing graceful patterns over the lines.  “I think I see it.” He said at last.  “We went wrong.”

Evan looked over his shoulder, then frowned.  “Don’t.  Just… don’t.”

Tristan frowned.  “Don’t?”

“Don’t say it.”

Tristan continued to puzzle over the map.  “But… look.  We should have taken a left turn at Albuquerque.”

Evan closed his eyes and sighed, obviously counting to ten.  Twice.  “There’s gotta be a beer around here somewhere.”  As he rummaged through the cooler Julie shot Tristan an approving grin.   A little startled, Tristan smiled back, tossing in a shy shrug.  Then he folded the map before carefully returning it to his back pocket.

The Dreaded Plot Plink

Cover copy“75 Miles to Montauk” is a supernatural thriller.  It has a lot of adventure, a good bit of action, some awesome characters and a few wrong turns at Albuquerque.  I love this story and I devoted most of my “National Novel Writing Month” experience to it last year.

During Nanowrimo time is golden.  The goal is to write just under 1,700 words per day, which requires a steady pace.  If I researched something I thought it was really important, like the critical scene in a Vegas nightclub where three of my characters meet for the first time.  It put me a day behind schedule but the information I found was critical.

There’s only one problem.  There is no nightclub scene in my book.  The characters only mention it in passing.  So what happened?

It was consumed by the dreaded plot plink.

Plink: 1. a short, sharp metallic sound made by plucking a musical instrument. 2. The sound of a bullet striking metal. 3. To shoot things at random. See: Boing.

(this is what a plink sounds like)

I know writers who outline their novels very carefully.  Like a storyboard for a move, each scene is carefully detailed so that they never lose focus during the actual writing process.  I also know writers who never outline anything.  They adopt a “seat of the pants” approach and end up wherever the muse takes them.

I’m somewhere in the middle.  I have a good idea of what I want to accomplish, and I usually do a ton of research to get me there.  But the story itself has room to grow and change as needed without the constraints of a rigid outline.  I adopted this style after learning the truth – good plots always plink.

Here’s a simple example.  In a scene as I originally envisioned it, my characters decide the object of their desire is being held on a top secret military base.  They break onto the base and they’re arrested.  During the following interrogation one of my characters argues passionately with the authority figure in charge, convincing him to join forces to search for this valuable thing.

As I started writing I listened to my characters.  One of them, a middle aged lady, expressed doubts about the wisdom of this plan.  When the idea of carrying a gun was mentioned she flatly refused.  When they were arrested she lost her temper (very rare for her, as she’s a nurturing type) and scolded her companions.  Meanwhile the MPs who detained them gave them a stern talking to about taking Close Encounters of the Third Kind too seriously, then let them go with directions on how to find Roswell, New Mexico.

Believe me, that’s the better scene.   By far.  In fact, I laugh every time I read it – it’s one of my favorites.  Had I rigidly held to the original idea, several of the actions would have been out of character for my team, and lacking in the humor I try to toss in as often as possible.  By going with the plink I lost the device of military back up, but I gained a much stronger group.  Also, I was forced to abandon the intended location of my hidden object.  After another good bit of research I found a new location, not guarded by anyone, and it’s a really awesome site.  It’ll film beautifully if someone decides to make the movie.  *G*

Writers, trust your instincts at the start.  But trust your material through the process.  Don’t force your will onto a scene if it’s just not flowing.  Listen to your characters and if a plink happens, write it!  You may not end up where you were originally going, but it’s likely you’ll end up somewhere much more interesting.

Meeting a character face to face

My dipshit kitten has developed a taste for headphone wires.  JUST headphone wires.  She’s not all that interested in food.  Looking it up, she could be longing for cat grass.  Fair enough.  I’ll pop down to the store and snag some fresh grass.

As I drove I did what I often do, I drifted into the novel.  Specifically, I started thinking about my least developed character, code named “Moon”.  He’s patterned a bit after The Stand’s Tom Cullen, not so much because I love Tom Cullen, but because M-O-O-N is a daily phrase, and he insisted on joining the team.  Fair enough.  But why the hell is he there?  Ok, he can see the highway in the sky.  It took me a bloody long time to figure out what the highway in the sky WAS, but he knew all along, and he led the others to it.  Ok, great.  What else?  Hadn’t a clue.

So there I was, pondering this.  I drove to the Petsmart, parked, and damn near banged into this asshole who had planted himself square (and I do mean square, for he was, himself, a perfect square) in the middle of the doorway to make a call.  “Excuse me,” says I tersely, when I realize that he’s little more than a child.  Meh, says I and thinks no more on it.  I procure food and look for grass, only to be thwarted in the attempt.  Normally there’s acres of the stuff.  Would you believe there was a run on cat grass?

Covered in owl shit, I retreat.

When I banged into the square again on the opposite side of the door.  He turned to me and pleasantly said “Hello, how are you?”  The smile was nearly angelic.  He didn’t miss a beat, he didn’t register my response.  He was already out the door, down the parking lot and still on his cell phone.  He was asking his father if he could hang out with Tristen.

The young man wasn’t a young man.  He was perhaps mid 20’s and obviously … oh what the hell is the PC phrase for it these days?  Growing up I would have said “retarded” and not mean it unkindly.  Mentally challenged, let’s say.  His body was softly rounded yet oddly squared, his face likewise a strange combination of perfect circles and squares.  He had come in to visit the animals, forgotten why he was there, turned around and decided to visit his friend.  But not before offering me a cheerful greeting in the parking lot that he forgot the moment it was uttered.

I have my Moon.  Isn’t it astonishing how the world works?