Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Choose your own story

Now that I am away from Bulgaria, I find that certain moments from the last year are frozen in my mind as images. Tonight I started thinking of the everyday ones, rather than the grandiose ones. I tried to catch them in a few words below, as first lines of stories I could write. 

So, which story would you rather read? Here are their first lines...

I searched for the tiniest hand of ginger as the birds chirped from the rafters above the produce section.

People never smiled back at me, but I couldn’t blame them, since they were waiting for the bus.

A view of sun-streaked Mount Vitosha framed the miniature versions of a missile and a tank rooted to the crown of the hill.

The cell phone beeped quietly from somewhere to my left, and every student in the room coughed.

I wondered if the clip clopping outside was yet another pair of high heeled black leather boots or a horse tugging a cart over to the Italian grocery store.

She leaned out from one window in the grid, a reminder that every window in every building in every one of these geometrical neighborhoods shielded a life of which I knew little.

His raspberries looked fresher than hers, so I guiltily switched allegiances for the day.

I turned to see two dogs streaking silently towards me; I should probably have shouted “ne” instead of “no.”

Walking away from a soft-hued painting of Plovdiv, I suddenly sank through a floorboard. If I worked in the Ethnographical Museum, I would just watch people traversing the floorboards, hoping to catch the looks on their faces when that one gave way.

The cat appeared to be lying on its back, head propped up against the wall and feet extended, reminding me oddly of someone reading in bed.

In a weird way, the overflowing garbage can in the neighborhood park was really a fountain of youth. It spilled forth teenager's beer bottles and toddler's juice boxes. 

The smell of fried fish drifted across the ramshackle roof of the stall, across the parking lot William the dog guarded, over the glassy office building with the nit-picky security guard, through the bars of our gate, and up my wrinkling nose.

No one in my neighborhood ever got used to the sight of my running outfits.  

Everywhere I looked I saw happy people with bunches of lilacs. Finally I got a scissors and headed for the park, convinced I wasn't the only one stealing from the public beauty. 

4 comments:

Brett said...

I'd definitely go with "his raspberries looked fresher than hers..." So many places you could take that. From the color of the local stands, to the finding of comfort in familiarity and allegiance with a vendor. Perfect.

Anonymous said...

I like "No one in my neighborhood ever got used to the sight of my running outfits." That whole issue of being yourself (and the parts of yourself that are cultural) vs. understanding/appreciating/respecting the culture in which you live seems to provide room for so many interesting feelings and reflections.

Nicolai said...

I liked a lot of these as first lines, and would preserve some of them within the interior of the story. You need to grab attention more than once, especially if you wander along in loops of abstract thought, like your brother, or teach easily distracted pubescents like you.

My favs from most to least (though least is still strong):

She leaned out from one window in the grid, a reminder..

The overflowing garbage can was really a fountain of youth..

(Though I think I'd rather have the possessives that follow be plural)

No one in my neighborhood ever got used to my running outfits.

They all give a simultaneous sense of setting and character, while introducing some human complication. This makes me feel not only like I am able to see something, but also like I have a bit of a feel for perspective and an interest in what will happen next.

Some of the other lines would make nice comments about setting within the story. But they feel more like captions for pictures than first lines for 'drama.' Depends what sort of story you want to write, of course.

Nicolai said...

Oh, anticipating an objection: the running outfits comment does give a sense of all three, though it is spartan, because the reader can see a lot just knowing that the place is the sort of place where people have trouble adjusting to exercise garments... I liked the other two better only because there was more tension about where the story's ideas would go. The running garments probably gives the most foreshadowing of human drama.