14 December 2009

First Page Game

Text 666 for Mom

“Ever notice that when you text the word mom on your cell, you’re typing 666?”

Mary took out her cell phone, the same model as her sister’s but in a different color. She flipped up the lid and looked at the keypad. Sure enough, the M and the O were both under the number 6.

“I never thought about it. Dang it! I told dad we needed the full keyboard phones. Now I’m going to think about that every time I text her.”

“It gets worse,” Teri said conspiratorially, “There’s this legend, right? That when they had those dial phones, if you dialed 666, it connected to someone.”

Mary was alert. “Get out!”

“Seriously!” The sib lowered her voice to almost a whisper. “There’d be no one on the line, but if you said your most secret wish, it’d come true.”

The blonde girl swallowed hard, engrossed in her sister’s tale. “And then?” She knew there was always an “and then.”

Teri leaned closer to sib. “And then, the next day. . . someone you love. . . dies!”

Mary gasped and trembled until Teri broke out in laughter. At first Mary was mad, but then realized how ridiculous it all was. She giggled along like a little girl, belying her sixteen years. “Well, Mom can be a bitch, so I guess the numbers make sense.”

First of all, great title.

I like the mechanics of this start, too. It foreshadows what's to come, gives me enough of a taste even though the author doesn't quite lay out the story problem, and feels focused when paired with the title. I'm a sucker for focus in short fiction. The dialogue leaves all sorts of fun stuff running through my head—especially because I recall that legend! At a certain impressionable age, you couldn’t have gotten me to dial 666 on rotary dial for a new pony.

I have a few nitpicks, though. One is the use of the word "sib." It distracts me. They're sisters, so maybe that's part of their shared lingo, but if so, I'd like to see something more original. I also think this writer is skilled enough to banish adverbs. Not to be a Nazi about them – I've thrown down a few myself. But in this case the opening is compelling and I'm already getting a picture of the sisters via their dialogue, so I don't think conspiratorially is needed. Ditto more telling phrases like: Mary was alert and engrossed in her sister’s tale. I think that real estate can be put to better use - either a bit of character description, setting (there's no setting, the characters are "floating") or to further the plot. You see what I alluded to there, longtime readers? Our three-legged stool of plot/character/setting that holds up every scene.

Speaking of an impressionable age, I also don't know that I'm buying Mary's melodramatic reaction at 16. But, I'd be willing to read more to see how it plays out.

16 comments:

lesleylsmith said...

Thanks for playing author; we really appreciate it! Amazingly (pardon the adverb) I agree with everything Editor Betsy said--except maybe the stuff about the pony. :)
Additionally (oops, there's another one) I have a bit of pet peeve when characters are described via hair color. Is that really her most important quality?
Overall, this is quite promising; I would read more.
Good luck with this!

David E. Hughes said...

I agree with my fellow editors on the adverb and hair color issues. I would add that I had some difficulty attributing dialogue at the beginning of the story.

My opinion diverges from Bet's on the issue of knowing what kind of story we are in for. I assume it could be horror or perhaps a paranormal thriller. However, I don't have a clear idea of what the set-up is. I don't think the dialogue is as "hooky" as another possibile start that gets to the meat of the story (so to speak). Something like: "Terry didn't think much of the rumor--until she found the first body."

Thanks for sending this in!

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