Author Topic: The Matador - Lit. Fiction  (Read 446 times)

Offline michael12489

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The Matador - Lit. Fiction
« on: October 06, 2022, 02:55:38 PM »
Hey fellow scribblers. Got them querying blues, silence and form rejections in my inbox, figured I'd post my submission package here (query, excerpt, synopsis) in the hopes of eliciting any kind of response. My book has received good feedback from both the beta readers and the editor I've shared it with, and I understand that rejection is the name of the game, and that a story about cagefighting and the people who do it isn't for everybody. But still that goddamn silence is disheartening. If nothing else, I hope the following words don't prove a chore.

THE MATADOR

It doesn’t start with a bell. Not often, anyway. You still see them—it’s not like the timekeeper’s trip gong is some brass relic of yesteryear, and in my life I’ve seen rounds marked off by buzzers, whistles, bells and taiko drums—but mostly, on the regional MMA scene in Ventura County, what you’ll hear just before the action starts or stops is the squawk of a simple air horn.
   The fights. When I hear these words my heart speeds, and behind my eyes a secret world flares and reels. I see hot adrenaline-soaked Saturday nights and noisy beer-spattered bars and bloodstained cages beyond counting. I see faces, and I remember a cantina in a village by the sea those days when it was ours, and for a moment it’s as if I’m rooted in a flood of memory, I feel ghost fingers cinch around my throat, and I can’t breathe. The fights. There is no single pairing of words in any language more evocative in my mind. Some nights I hear the call of the horn in my nightmares, and I wake up screaming, my eyes wet.

***

   Mixed martial arts as it’s known today—the chrysalis of what it's become, at least—entered the cultural zeitgeist in the United States in 1993, when a sumo wrestler from Oahu by name of Teila Tuli stepped into an octagonal cage in Denver, Colorado. Across from him stood Dutch karate black belt Gerard Gordeau, dressed in gi pants—a much smaller man who earned his bread as a high school janitor. It was the opening match of an eight-man tournament. Gloves were optional (both combatants wore their knuckles bare), there were no weight classes (Tuli outweighed Gordeau by two hundred pounds), no time limits, and no explicit rules (“Two men enter, one man leaves,” explained an announcer cageside). It was marketed as a simulated death match, and that’s what it was. Twenty seconds into the fight Gordeau caught and dropped Tuli with a short check uppercut, stepped quickly forward and, before the big man could regain his feet, kicked him square in the face. Tuli’s front teeth rocketed from his skull with a sharp crack! (one flickering out through the fence’s rungs; the other embedding in the bone of Gordeau’s right foot); the contest was waved off, and the tiers of witnesses gathered in the murk of the McNichols Sports Arena commenced to roar. Prizefighting had taken a permanent turn.
   I didn’t see that fight live, but years after the fact, in the living room of a friend while his folks were at work. We watched the show on a rented VHS tape, blithely ignorant of the chains of causality that had been drawn down around us that distant night in Denver and were even then beginning to tighten and pull. We were in it for the spectacle. Anyway the true paradigm shift came not with Tuli’s broken mouth but two bouts later, when Brazilian jiu-jitsu representative Royce Gracie took American boxer Art Jimmerson (in his lone red lobster mitt glove) to the mats, got on top of him, smothered his thrashing limbs and headbutted him into submission. That a professional fight could keep going after it hit the floor had never occurred to me. Gracie’s performance in the Ultimate Fighting Championship (as that tournament was called) was a seminal moment in the history of recreational combat and would forever redefine martial arts practice in the U.S.—but in his home country of Brazil, no-holds-barred fighting, under the heading vale tudo, had been in practice for decades. In Grecian antiquity, in the era of the first Olympics, it was waged alongside boxing and wrestling as pankration, Greek for “all powers.” In Thailand, the precursors of muay Thai (one of the foundational disciplines of contemporary mixed martial arts) predated the birth of Christ by a millennium. There are images of wrestling on the walls of Beni Hasan, and accounts of grapplers and their exploits—preserved on stones and shards of pottery—unearthed from the ruins of Babylon. The evolution of fighting is inextricable from the rise of our species.
   But this isn’t a history of the thrall of violence. Every fight harbors a multiplicity of narratives. Every athlete embodies a constellation. This is the story of the best fighter I ever knew. In a niche so teeming with outsized personalities, it’s neither the gaudiest nor the most inspiring. This is no social allegory. You’ll find no Cinderella men here; no retired, hard-luck bruisers seeking redemption in a cage, or returning reluctantly to their forsaken trade in order to save their house from the maw of an unfeeling bank (or fund their school’s imperiled art department, or pay for an estranged blind daughter’s heart surgery, or whatever). It certainly isn’t the most illuminative of the breadth and nuance of mixed martial arts, this brutal game whose practitioners are still discovering the ways you can lose a fight. But it is mine. Because the fighter in question also happened to be my friend. And for a short while he brought me into his world, and it left its mark.
   I tell you: the world of the fights seems either to repulse or ensnare those it touches.
It always leaves a mark.

***

   Our story has many potential sounding off points. We could say it began on an early August morning in Ventura Memorial, when I was born—though I was just an observer of events to follow (and admittedly unimportant in their unfolding), it’s nevertheless through my eyes you’re getting this now—mea culpa. Or maybe it began the first time Nick Cromwell threw a punch and found out his hands had lives of their own. We could say it started when Nick and I became friends, or when my father, in one of my few good memories of the man, took us to our first live boxing matches. Or we could assume a broader view and say it really began with that tournament in Denver; or, broader still, that long ago day in Porto Alegre (c. 1914), when Japanese martial arts ambassador Mitsuyo Maeda brought his judo exposition to Brazil. Maybe it was all foreordained the first time a man ever made a fist and lobbed it at another with bad intentions—and the other, not liking to be hit, clinched his assailant and tackled him to the ground. There are any number of possibilities.
   We could say it began with a girl.
   A girl with wild hair and fierce eyes…
   A girl who liked boxing.

Offline slinke13

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Re: The Matador - Lit. Fiction
« Reply #1 on: October 07, 2022, 10:08:37 AM »
Hey michael12489 :)

I know those query blues are tough to handle.

First off, I don't think there's a problem with the quality of your writing. From sentence to sentence it's really quite nice! But I'm getting the sense that you're spinning your wheels a bit. If I hadn't known otherwise I could have even mistaken those three sections as three options for how to start the story.

I'd suggest instead of writing 'Our story has many potential sounding off points', pick one! Get us into the story. You can tell us the history of the sport later. Get us to the character. Show us him watching the VHS (and his emotions) or meeting this girl (and his emotions) or waking up with nightmares (though you should give that one a twist if you choose it since it's quite cliché). What's the start of your story? It seems even you as the writer haven't decided.

As it stands now I'm not sure you've given us a reason why we should care about this specific fighter's story. I think achieving that would make a big difference with snagging an agent's attention.

Best of luck!

Offline gushags16

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Re: The Matador - Lit. Fiction
« Reply #2 on: October 07, 2022, 10:30:37 AM »
I agree with what @slinke13 is saying. The writing in this is good. You're not getting knocked for that. And I know you're writing lit fic, but today's lit fic is not the lit fic of the past where you could very slowly ease your way into it. And right now that's what you seem to be doing.

For actionable feedback, my reaction to this was I felt like I was reading popular nonfiction. Like Seabiscuit. You're giving me a lot of information about MMA, which you're clearly knowledgeable about, but it's an information dump about the background of your story in the first 1000 words. For example, if it was a nonfiction story about Dana White and how he was ringside for that fight and dropped out of college a week later and started training in Brazilian jiu-jitsu and etc. etc. etc. and out of that the UFC was born, then all of that preamble would make sense. But for fiction, I just think it slows everything down.

I would look to cut until the point where Nick is introduced; where we actually meet him. Read from there as if you haven't ever read the previous portion, and if the story still works, that's where you need to begin.

Offline michael12489

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Re: The Matador - Lit. Fiction
« Reply #3 on: October 07, 2022, 04:40:17 PM »
Thanks Gushags16 and Slink13. I appreciate what you said about my writing These passages are a preamble (prologue) that was added in later drafts. Posted below are the first five pages of the next chapter (Chapter One)... Would it be better to do away with the introduction and simply begin this way?

***

Chapter One

   Stella Martinez was a fight fan. She was born in Ventura in California and raised on the west side of Ventura Avenue, in a small house with a grass yard and chainlink fence, a view of the gutter and the street and, past the rust-bitten guardrail, a grove of eucalyptus through whose pale trunks and ribboning leaves could be seen the flash of traffic racing north and south on the Ojai Freeway. Her mother, whose name was Carla, was twenty-one when she had Stella and she’d lived in that city for most of her life; her father, an immigrant from Guanajuato with family in Los Angeles, worked five days a week at an auto body shop on Market Street, and when he was home he alternated between doting on Stella, battling his wife, and watching boxing. His name was Bernard.
   Bernard was a fighter. Up and down the Avenue his reputation was respected, and for a long time after his death Stella would hear tales from strangers and cousins and uncles of her father’s skill with his fists.
   “No one f**ked with my dad,” she said.
   “Bernard was not an easy man to categorize,” Carla told me, years later. “He was very loyal and so full of passion and he worked very hard. And of course we had great times together, but we used to get in such fights. I was just a kid, really. I hated the friends he hung around with, and when he got mad sometimes he hit me. Once he dragged me across the kitchen floor by my hair. Stella saw it happen, though maybe she didn’t remember. She was very young.”
   She paused. Took a sip of her drink. It was a vodka tonic, and as she drank I could hear the mutter of the ice cubes in her glass, clinks I would be able to hear later when I played back the recording of our conversation.
   “Some days I loved him,” she said. “Some days I hated him. In the end we just weren’t good together. But I couldn’t bring myself to leave. We had Stella and Bernard adored her. That must be said. He loved his daughter. I never saw him happier than when he was with her, watching boxing. They watched every match. She would sit in his lap. It was their special thing.”
   When Stella was four Bernard was shot twice in the chest on the sidewalk in front of their house. He stumbled into the street, pitched face forward in the ankle-deep storm drain, in the thin spars of yellow weeds that grew up through the cracks in the concrete. He saw his blood run between his skinned and shaking fingers and flow in iridescent veins among the pebbles and stalks of dry grass and he seized and cast his eyes to the trees across the way and the splintered sky beyond and there he died.
   He was thirty-three years old.
   Years to come Stella would continue to watch boxing avidly. The fights stirred her in ways nothing else did. For a time she believed this sensation—exigent and visceral—was the memory of her father the action conjured: of his hands, his smell, the bristles of his mustache, the secret dreams he whispered in her ear—until one day it came to pass that she watched only for herself. She couldn’t say when this shift occurred. What she liked in boxing was what she sought in people—honesty, aggression and, above all, heart—and at night when she closed her eyes she lived in rings: dusty rings in city clubs and warehouse gyms; clean white rings blazing beneath arena lights; rings the size of the sea, where lean men with beautiful eyes stood and fought, their arms weighted by leather gloves the color of blood.
   “No, I never cared for fighting,” Carla said. “When Bernard died I retreated into myself.  We moved in with my parents—they lived off Kellogg Street—and I detached from everything that had to do with our lives before.” She sipped from her drink; the ice cubes rocked. We were in the sitting room of the home she shared with her second husband, who was out back with their son, kicking a soccer ball—in the arid fire-scoured hills a mile or so east (and a world apart) from the house Carla had grown up in. Dusk, and eldritch peach-toned sunlight slanted in through the windows facing Pierpont Bay and fell across her where she sat in the couch, and I was on the floor, taking notes, my tape recorder whirring in the carpet between us. There was a framed school portrait of Stella in the third grade set on the fireplace mantel: with her round button nose (her only feature immediately familiar), her black hair in wavy locks purling around her face, cheeks dimpled, eyes bright, smiling before a sky-and-cloud vellum backdrop. Already as a girl of eight or nine she had been strikingly pretty. “Stella could be… cold,” Carla said. “She got that from me, I suppose. Bernard was many things, but he wasn’t indifferent.”
She drank again. “I went away inside myself. I worked. I let my parents do the job of raising my daughter. She grew distant, independent—because she had to, I guess. I could feel it happening, but I just let it go on… She said she forgave me for this. Near the end. She came by with that fighter of yours, and it was the first time we all ate dinner together in years. She said she wanted us back in her life. Just like that. It was a good moment and I was overjoyed, but you know—” she nodded at the image over the fireplace—“I don’t think I ever understood that girl. I missed too much.”
   “How so?”
   “Well it’s like I’m saying—I wasn’t there. When puberty hit, around the time I was starting to see Abel, and I was taking night classes at the city college, and finally beginning to feel like a real human again, she started acting out. I caught her smoking cigarettes, she would shriek the most vile curses, she refused to go to church. She got this attitude. I’m sure I don’t have to tell you Stella had a temper. By the time Abel and I were married and living in this house, she was in high school, making trouble all the time. We fought constantly, and she started skipping school and sneaking out at night. Drinking with boys. She was carted home by the police, I can’t tell you how many times. My parents thought we should send her to our family in Mexico. Abel suggested boarding school. What I did was give her exactly what she wanted, God help me. I enrolled her in independent study, which in this case amounted to the same as just letting her drop out. She begged and begged, and finally I just gave up. But I rationalized it by saying this was her life; she was almost a woman now, old enough to make these kinds of decisions for herself. She was a junior, which would have made her about seventeen, and Niko was… three. One morning maybe a year later we woke up and she was gone. I wasn’t surprised. Actually, I believed she would come back. I was naïve. Of course you know she didn’t.”
    Stella walked out on their house on the hill, cut her hair and got a boxing glove tattooed on the inside of her left forearm. From Bernard she’d inherited the shape of her face, her height, her nose and her love of boxing. From her mother she had her eyes and curious nature and capacity for callousness. (Stella could turn off inside, Carla said.) By her own estimation, what remained of her parents was humility and religion, and Stella had no use for either. She’d uncovered a god of her own, fooling around with a neighbor’s son at a Quinceañera in Kellogg Park, and recognized its power at once.
She would recall this moment of epiphany, as Chuy Garza’s tongue lunged in and out of her mouth, and his clumsy fingers fumbled their way under the cotton lining of her panties. She opened her eyes and looked at his tightly shut eyelids and could see his eyeballs rolling and quivering behind them as in the throes of dream and she thought, very clearly: I can do anything I want. I am in control.
    She was fourteen. By the time of her own Quinceañera, which went uncelebrated, she was long without virginity and when, just shy of her eighteenth birthday, she shoved a backpack full of clothes through her bedroom window and climbed out after it into the waiting night, there was a handful of boys and men who would do most anything for her. An icy light shone inside Stella Martinez. She was a glacier. She moved where the currents took her, and like a glacier fire seemed to radiate within her and both men and women gravitated towards it, able to perceive its glow but unable to touch or mar it. Stella kept her light for herself. She moved through the world like a glacier, powerful and misleading, and the people she left behind were like ships having split against the ice, blind to the force that killed them, seeing only the starlit spires that had drawn them in.

***

   Stella came into our lives the night of the Cromwell-Johnson bout, held at the Earl Warren Showgrounds in Santa Barbara in September of 2013. She was living on her own, dating an amateur mixed martial artist named Julian “Cheeky” Arroyo. Julian worked security part-time at the Matador Cantina on the corner of Main Street and Palm in Ventura, alongside Nick Cromwell, who was also a bouncer and one hell of a fighter. Ben Johnson was Nick’s fifth professional opponent. On the night of the fight the Matador closed early so the staff could attend.
   I was behind the bar, cleaning glassware under the halogen track lights. We only used those lights when closing; otherwise the joint was rather dim. The everyday business-hours lights had to sieve their way down through a many-colored canopy of fraying bras and underwear stapled to the ceiling, and the tiled floor was uneven and deeply mottled with the shadows of tens of thousands of spilled drinks. When I remember the Matador in a rush, with the crowds of people jostling at the counter, and the servers threading between them with the big trays poised above their heads, plumes of steam billowing out from the kitchen window and the jukebox jumping in a mist of human sweat—it always seems to be through a sepia lens cap.
   Pat Ferris stood beside me. Pat was the cantina’s owner and head manager and with each cup he dried and polished to a crystal shine he drank a little nip of whiskey, poured from a bottle he kept under the counter next to the dishwasher. He only drank on the nights Nick fought and it had no visible effect. The Matador was known as a tequila dive; if you looked at the shelves, tequila was what you saw.
   Pat Ferris hated tequila, but I didn’t mind it. He hated rock n’ roll too, but Jimi Hendrix was on the juke and I didn’t mind that either—ordinarily on a Saturday night we played the same thirteen goddamned pop songs on repeat. I watched him, holding a pint glass at the base in the ends of his fingers, passing a microfiber rag along its rim. His gray-brown hair fell in loose woodflake curls from beneath a greasy backwards Dodgers hat. The stubble on his high freckled cheeks shone like pepper in the lights. His eyes were green and sharp.
   With a flourish of fabric and a glinting squeak he snapped the towel to his side and placed the glass in a row next to the others. He retrieved his whiskey and filled his tumbler.
   “Don’t suppose I could get in on that?” I said.

Offline gushags16

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Re: The Matador - Lit. Fiction
« Reply #4 on: October 07, 2022, 10:44:43 PM »
For me, this is better. However (and you may not like this) but I think your starting point is after the break:

Quote
Stella came into our lives the night of the Cromwell-Johnson bout, held at the Earl Warren Showgrounds in Santa Barbara in September of 2013.

The section before that is good, but it's all backstory. You don't have to toss it, but could you sprinkle it in later, or flashback to it in a few pages? Or, if you started in this action like this is, could you eliminate it altogether? I don't know. But I do think it's a stronger start. In that paragraph you have the entire setup of your novel, as far I can see. You introduce Stella, you mention she's dating Julian (who we know from your query she will cheat on), you introduce Nick, and we have the narrator (Red) talking in first person. For me, that's where I'd start.

However, I don't know your whole novel. It may be that Stella's home life is very important. But with the story you've shared in the query and the synopsis, I like it beginning farther along.

Offline Lanita

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Re: The Matador - Lit. Fiction
« Reply #5 on: October 08, 2022, 02:05:23 AM »
I agree with the others. I'd cut the prologue (it reads like non-fiction and doesn't draw me in), cut the backstory (you can weave these things in later if/when we need to know them), and cut the exposition about the sport. As far as the first pages, the writing is good but they read like an interview and there are no dialogue tags for whoever is asking her questions. I'm also wondering: Who is the narrator? Why is he narrating this story? Would he really have all the details about their private relationship? And why is the narrator asking Stella about her life?

Also, when you start with Stella, you're telling the reader that Stella is the MC. Make sure you start the story en media res, and start with the MC. Show us the scene, rather than tell us. Like the others mentioned, the writing is good, but that's not enough to keep folks reading. By reading trad. published comp titles, you'll get a better idea of how to structure your story. :)

Offline michael12489

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Re: The Matador - Lit. Fiction
« Reply #6 on: October 09, 2022, 12:06:31 AM »
So what follows below is how the first five pages read if we start from the break. I'm not sure I like this; it seems abrupt, and Stella's backstory, and the missing years between her running away and walking into the Matador for the first time, are important to the story... But nonetheless it don't hurt nothin' to post it here and see what happens.

Here goes:

Stella Martinez came into our lives the night of the Cromwell-Johnson bout, held at the Earl Warren Showgrounds in Santa Barbara in September of 2013. She was living on her own, dating an amateur mixed martial artist named Julian “Cheeky” Arroyo. Julian worked security part-time at the Matador Cantina on the corner of Main Street and Palm in Ventura, alongside Nick Cromwell, who was also a bouncer and one hell of a fighter. Ben Johnson was Nick’s fifth professional opponent. On the night of the fight the Matador closed early so the staff could attend.
   I was behind the bar, cleaning glassware under the halogen track lights. We only used those lights when closing; otherwise the joint was rather dim. The everyday business-hours lights had to sieve their way down through a many-colored canopy of fraying bras and underwear stapled to the ceiling, and the tiled floor was uneven and deeply mottled with the shadows of tens of thousands of spilled drinks. When I remember the Matador in a rush, with the crowds of people jostling at the counter, and the servers threading between them with the big trays poised above their heads, plumes of steam billowing out from the kitchen window and the jukebox jumping in a mist of human sweat—it always seems to be through a sepia lens cap.
   Pat Ferris stood beside me. Pat was the cantina’s owner and head manager and with each cup he dried and polished to a crystal shine he drank a little nip of whiskey, poured from a bottle he kept under the counter next to the dishwasher. He only drank on the nights Nick fought and it had no visible effect. The Matador was known as a tequila dive; if you looked at the shelves, tequila was what you saw.
   Pat Ferris hated tequila, but I didn’t mind it. He hated rock n’ roll too, but Jimi Hendrix was on the juke and I didn’t mind that either—ordinarily on a Saturday night we played the same thirteen goddamned pop songs on repeat. I watched him, holding a pint glass at the base in the ends of his fingers, passing a microfiber rag along its rim. His gray-brown hair fell in loose woodflake curls from beneath a greasy backwards Dodgers hat. The stubble on his high freckled cheeks shone like pepper in the lights. His eyes were green and sharp.
   With a flourish of fabric and a glinting squeak he snapped the towel to his side and placed the glass in a row next to the others. He retrieved his whiskey and filled his tumbler.
   “Don’t suppose I could get in on that?” I said.
   He took a sip, closed his eyes, and let the tumbler rest beneath his nose. Then he knocked it back and said: “Only way I give you some of this is the Son of God Himself comes down and says the sanctity of my immortal soul’s at stake. I’ll think about it.”
   “What about this?” I grabbed a bottle of Cuervo Gold and shook so you could hear the liquid clap. “It’s not even the good stuff.”
   “Get drunk at the fights on your own dime like everyone else.” He gestured at the floor beyond the bar: at Stacy, mopping between the fixed round tabletops, her back to us so that all I saw was the scree of her blonde hair shimmering between her shoulders, and Jennifer, sweeping dried salsa and crumbled tortilla chips from the booths along the far wall, over which in the big mirror I could see the framed print of “The Bullfight” by Eugenio Lucas Villaamil hung above the shelves behind me. Outside, Keenan the bouncer was at his post telling stories of army transports in Baghdad as Pai, the cook, still in his apron and yellow rolled-up bandana, smoked cigarettes and laughed. We were all going to the fights together and we lingered in a happy nervous anticipation, awaiting Pat to give us the all-clear.
   He looked at me.
   “You set on cash for tonight?”
   “I’m okay,” I said. “Why? Aren’t you coming?”
   “What do you think, Red? Let’s have an educated guess.”
   I leaned an elbow on the counter. “I think it’s a pretty big fight. It’s for a vacant belt and it’s the last fight on Nick’s contract with the PFC. They’ve attracted some attention from the big shows in the past—that’s why the belt’s vacant in the first place—so if he wins people are gonna notice. It could be a turning point. A breakout moment. I was a betting man, I’d lay odds on your making an appearance.”
   Pat smiled softly. “It’s a bet you’d lose.” He refilled his tumbler, considered, then reached beneath the bar and came up with another, poured and handed it to me. “I can’t watch. Would get my blood up, seeing someone go after Nick like that. Don’t know how you do it, and you his friend.”
   “That’s why I watch,” I said.
   He raised his glass.
   “To Nick.”
   “Salud, jefe.”
   I heard the jangle of the bell over the front door. I set my glass on the bartop, feeling the whiskey hot in my stomach, tasting the hot, smooth, slowly dying sweetness of it on my tongue and down my throat. I heard Keenan saying, “Go time. Pai—put away that fry-baby dress. Our man needs us.”
   In through the door walked three people.


Chapter Two

   I saw Pai first, skipping ahead in his nimble-footed way, waving as he went by and grinning, a great gapped grin, old Pai, his cheeks wrinkled, forehead scrunched—then on, under the mounted bullhorns taken in the Plaza de Toros in Mexico City in 1953 and down the hall, past the bathrooms, bouncing on his toes and reaching back to undo his apron.
   Julian came in next, tall, rangy—a natural lightweight but he fought at feather—in a black hoodie with the word Knuckles stamped across it in white serif letters, every part of him pared down and tough as rebar. His battered, cauliflowered ears rose in elfin points against the sides of his head and his socketed eyes glittered darkly in their depths and you could see the panes of his skull through the flesh of his face. It was not a good face. It was like something you found buried in the sand, or leering up from the mud on a hill after a landslide, but Julian himself was all right if he liked you and you took him in doses.
   He was smiling, he came striding through the door, the light shining on the hard wires of his slicked-back hair—his arm draped around the shoulders of a girl.
   Strange girl. The felt sense of her seemed to race across the bar and knot its fist in my collar; she was like the wink of sharpened steel in a cafeteria brawl. Black leather Doc Martin boots carried her out of the entryway. She had on tight blue jeans and an open leather jacket with spiked lapels. Beneath the jacket she wore a silvery low-cut blouse so that you could see in its entirety the jade-eyed Calavera Catrina tattooed above her breasts. Her hair, jet-black, was styled in a side shave, sweeping rightward in jagged feathers across her forehead and fanning out over a small brown ear whose helix was bossed with metal. Hollow, glass, twelve-millimeter gauges yawned in both her ear lobes; a bent barbell hung from her septum. I saw Stacy and Jennifer stop what they were doing and gawp as she crossed the floor with Julian; and then my eyes went to the stippling of stubble over the left half of her scalp, and I couldn’t help imagining what it would feel like to rasp my palm across it. Her eyes were almond-shaped and hazel and they were the calmest things about her.
   Our eyes met. Her arched penciled brow furrowed; her snub nose rumpled. Her nightshade lips pressed thin, as with distaste. I felt my cheeks blush and faced down at the bar, at the rag in my hand.
   “Yo yo yo,” said Julian. “Fight night people. Our boy Nick ‘bout to get it done.”
   “You have the tickets?” asked Stacy, leaning on her mop.
   “Ready to go,” he said. “Mothership’s out back. You still down to drive?”
   “Of course.”
   They came up to the counter.
   “What up, Cheeky,” I said.
   “Hey.” We bumped fists. I looked at the girl.
   “Hi there,” I said.
   She regarded me briefly with an expression of aloof disdain, then looked away. “Hello,” she said.
   “Julian,” Pat said. “Seen Nick today?”



Offline gushags16

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Re: The Matador - Lit. Fiction
« Reply #7 on: October 10, 2022, 03:39:11 PM »
For  me, yes. This feels like a beginning that would keep me reading. I would use the Stella backstory later if it's necessary, but this feels like it's starting in the right place for me.

Offline Lanita

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Re: The Matador - Lit. Fiction
« Reply #8 on: October 10, 2022, 03:42:12 PM »
So what follows below is how the first five pages read if we start from the break. I'm not sure I like this; it seems abrupt, and Stella's backstory, and the missing years between her running away and walking into the Matador for the first time, are important to the story... But nonetheless it don't hurt nothin' to post it here and see what happens.

Much better. I prefer this to your original opening pages. It's far more interesting because you place the reader into story itself, rather than backstory. I do understand that Stella's backstory is important, and you should include it, but how you go about that will make all the difference. You can weave the info into the story in pieces (rather than an infodump), and have much of it told by her in dialogue. This would make more sense anyway, unless her and the narrator are extremely close.

If you're used to writing non-fiction, this might seem odd to you, but this is much more engaging. What have you found for comp titles? You'll need a couple of them for your query letter. Maybe go back and read the opening chapters and see how they handle backstory and exposition.