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Forum > Artists & Authors > an excerpt from my novel
kittenjoe
Joined: Mar 31, 2012
Post count:600
Posted: Apr 03, 2012 06:20 AM

a little note or two, Mary is the narrator's grandmother and Dinah is his older sister. i really like the opening of the chapter I just finished so i figured i'd share it with you.
feel free to tell me if anything sounds weird or seems unclear.


I've got to fess up, there's one thing I haven't been honest about.
I told myself I'd tell the truth and nothing but the truth, but there's some things I haven't told. I'm not sure if I'd count it as lying, I swear I didn't leave this out on purpose. I just forgot to mention it.
Let's go back again, I am ten years old and this is a few weeks after Mary was buried. We're at the cathedral down in town, another funeral, the first one I ever worked at.
The body is a man in his sixties, barely older than Mary was. According to the obituary, Dinah says, he was born in 1920, fought in two wars, died of lung cancer and had five grandchildren. Other people read the celebrity gossip, Dinah reads obituaries. Part of the job, she says.
Anyway, little me finishes positioning the flower arrangement of yellow tulips on the man's chest and touches the leathery brown skin on his folded hands.
The whole cathedral is decorated with yellow tulips, the man's family said he would have wanted it that way. I still honestly doubt that man ever even as much as looked at a yellow tulip twice when he was alive.
That's the worst part of being dead. Your free will, personality, memories are all being passed down to someone else. Mental heirlooms, if you will.
And no, little me didn't want someone else to make decisions for him when he was dead, either. He wrote a testament the very next day. For the record, I still keep it at the bottom of my suitcase, three ruled notebook pages folded over four times. You know, in case I die on the road or something like that.
And for the record, the very first line says that I don't want anyone but the mortician to see my corpse, ever, because yes, the old man's corpse looks peaceful enough.
Almost as if he's taking a peaceful nap in his best Sunday suit, but only almost. Once you've watched his mouth being sewn shut with wires, it's pretty hard to forget that image no matter how much make up you slather on to hide the stitches around his lips.
Little me turns away from the body and watches Dinah place the last bouquet of tulips into a vase next to the altar. Our job is done.
Dinah ushers little me into the ladies' room and locks the door.
“You did great,” she says, and she pulls a small cosmetics bag from her purse.
A matching set, black snake skin, owner drowned in her own bathtub after overdosing on sleeping pills.
“You mind helping me undo my hair?” Dinah asks little me, and so he starts pulling out the pins that hold her updo in place. He digs through her purse for a brush and starts combing her hair in fast strokes while she redoes her make up.
Matte white eyeshadow for that anemic look, just a touch of liquid eyeliner and mascara caked so thickly that it makes her lashes stick together like spider legs.
Dinah is still applying some last touches on her eyes when little me finishes brushing her hair.
“Hand me the lipstick, please,” she says, and her mouth hangs open in concentration so widely that all the words slur together into one.
“Weddings or funerals?” little me asks.
Dinah's make up case contains exactly two shades of lipstick: one labeled “WEDDINGS”, matte white-gray, sold in stores as Virgin Snow, and the other, labeled “FUNERALS”, a red so dark it's nearly black, sold under the name Midnight Rose.
Dinah closes the little container of mascara. “Funerals. What else?”
She applies the lipstick carefully and gets so close to the mirror that her breath fogs up the glass. “All done,” she whispers under her breath and steps into a pair of white patent heels.
Like that, she's taller than little me, and she pushes him in front of the mirror.
“I've got to do something to fix your hair,” she says over the top of his head, over the kinky coarse hair sticking up and out. Proctor hair.
Dinah sprinkles water all over little me's head and starts combing his hair down with her fingernails, they're painted dark red to match her lips, of course.
In the end, little me's hair lies slick and combed back, and Dinah takes his arms and pulls him backwards until her breasts are pressed against his back.
“Look,” she says, “we're beautiful.”
Little me looks and he sees sleek black hair and paper white skin, black lipstick, his white shirt and Dinah's white suit combined to a black blouse.
A CEO's trophy wife, mauled by a mountain lion during her honeymoon.
It's all about contrast.
“We're beautiful,” little me repeats and he smiles at his reflection.
“Beautiful in black and white,” Dinah adds, and she kisses the air above the top of little me's head, a fraction of an inch away from his hair, but not touching. No smudging her lipstick.
“Turn around,” she says, and little me does.
“Look at you, you're perfect,” she says, and she kisses above his forehead. Then kisses above his cheeks. “And I'm so sorry,” she adds.
“Because nanna's dead?” little me asks.
Dinah smiles at him, but her eyes look like she's about to cry. And no, looking back, I still don't really understand why.
“That too,” she says.
The cathedral bell tolls. We leave the bathroom and take our seats in the pew at the very back. The preacher starts his sermon, and little me takes Dinah's hand.
...leeches, LEECHES!
NationalLoser
Joined: Dec 11, 2010
Post count:9747
Posted: Apr 03, 2012 06:27 AM

This was a mix between "AAAAWW" and "AHAHAHA."

I really like the narrator referring to his past self in third person. It's a unique perspective, and although I was a bit confused in the beginning, I got it by the middle of the passage.

This is a really interesting story. For some reason I'm absolutely fascinated by stories/movies of morticians and people who work in/around funeral homes, even though it's a job I'd never like to have. I really like your writing style, and I admit, I find the 'wedding' and 'funeral' labeled lipsticks absolutely hilarious.

This is excellent. I'd definitely love to read more.
Let's be 1905 but not 1917
kittenjoe
Joined: Mar 31, 2012
Post count:600
Posted: Apr 03, 2012 07:16 AM

i was worried about people having problems with the POV actually so im glad you got into it quickly :3

also sad enough to say as much as i enjoy writing funeral scenes the story isnt actually about morticians

and thank you!!!
...leeches, LEECHES!
NationalLoser
Joined: Dec 11, 2010
Post count:9747
Posted: Apr 03, 2012 07:19 AM

Haha, I really do enjoy unique perspectives. I've tried my hand at first-person present tense and second-person, though I find second-person to be extremely difficult.

But no matter what the story is about, judging from this passage, it's going to be great :)
Let's be 1905 but not 1917
kittenjoe
Joined: Mar 31, 2012
Post count:600
Posted: Apr 03, 2012 07:43 AM

second person is really easy for me, actually, because you can keep a relatively neutral voice and still stay close to the POV character
first person is kind of difficult for me, because i've got to make sure the characters don't all sound the same
and i can't third person at all
i'm simply the worst there is
...leeches, LEECHES!
NationalLoser
Joined: Dec 11, 2010
Post count:9747
Posted: Apr 03, 2012 07:45 AM

Yeah, I suck at third person too -n-
The only problem with first person is that I tend to accidentally switch back and forth between past and present tense.
Let's be 1905 but not 1917
GrotesqueVanity
Joined: Jul 11, 2011
Post count:4241
Posted: Apr 04, 2012 09:40 PM

I loooove it.
I could really just picture this and all.
uhhhmmm, I didn't like the continual 'little me' but that's just me and my opinion is invalid because I don't know how to write.
water off a ducks back.
kittenjoe
Joined: Mar 31, 2012
Post count:600
Posted: Apr 05, 2012 12:59 AM

thank you :3

yeah, the main reason i even used the third person thing in this scene so continuously was for disorientation/dissociation
(lol, psychology)
maybe i'll change some of it since the dissociation only becomes apparent later in the chapter
...leeches, LEECHES!

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