Fragment from the First Draft

This is taking me waaaay out of my comfort zone, sharing a small fragment (something more than seven lines) from the first draft of my novel. The usual disclaimers (rough, unedited, only a snippet etc.) apply. The only reason I am considering it is because some of you, dear readers, kindly asked to see some of it, and because it is part of the 15 day writing challenge devised by Jeff Goins.

By way of background to the story: it is a crime novel which takes place in Romania in 1995.  This woman is a secondary character, the wife of the policeman who is helping my hero (who is English) and heroine (Romanian) in their crime-solving mission.  Gina plays a small but crucial part in destroying the evidence.  The fragment below describes her motivation for it to a certain extent.  Any comments or suggestions would be much appreciated.  Don’t be afraid to be cruel in order to be kind!

To her surprise, Gina had not found married life and parenthood as rewarding as she had been led to believe.  She had been herded by her mother into the expectation that motherhood would confer new meaning to her life.  But now she often found herself wondering: ‘Is this all?  Is that all I have to look forward to in life from now to evermore?’  Oh, she loved the little blighter well enough, but she had to admit that she often did not like him much.  He was selfish, prone to tantrums, overly spoilt by his dad and grandparents, and he took all of that out on her.  As if she didn’t have enough troubles of her own!

All she had ever learnt about bookkeeping was out of date in the new market economy and had to be relearnt.  There were other, younger accountants snapping at her heels, with their new-fangled degrees from private universities (luckily, still not officially recognised) and their mastery of foreign languages.  She had been told she should learn some English or French too, that it would help further her career. What if their enterprise is privatised and sold off to foreigners: then where would she be, out on the streets?  Whereas if she could chat with her would-be bosses in their own language, that might make a difference.

But when was she supposed to have the time to learn a foreign language?  With the child still not sleeping through the night and Dinu often away on night-shift, or else dead to the world when he did get to sleep at home.  She also had her mother-in-law to look after, who was not necessarily getting more decrepit every week, but certainly more demanding.  Plus trying to maintain the fruit and vegetables weed-free and unbitten by pests on their small plot of land.  She had been told that keeping a few chicken would be no trouble, and that having freshly laid eggs would be such a bonus to her son’s health.  So now she had to feed and clean after those stinky, cackling nuisances.

And, to top it all, Dinu had now taken it into his head to build a house behind his parents’ old one.  True, their current house was small, dark and old-fashioned, with only an electric plate in the kitchen. The running water was barely running, since the pipes had burst last winter.  But now they had a building site to contend with as well.  Dirt everywhere and drudgery from morning till bedtime!  If Dinu ever took it into his dim little brain to mention having another child again, she would punch him right between his eyes!

Her only pleasure was spending her money on foreign chocolate.  When she got her salary (in ever-increasing mounds of cash, which were actually worth very little in the current inflation), she would stop at a kiosk on the high street on the way back from work.  She would buy pretty much the entire stock and hide it at the back of her wardrobe, trying to resist the temptation to have more than one entire tablet a day.  She was beyond caring what her body might look like if she gained too much weight.  She had no feeling of guilt at spending so much money on chocolate that she never shared with anyone else.  After all, her husband was willing to spend every last leu of his on that child: it had to be all foreign nappies and toys for him, oh, yes!  But he didn’t want to spend anything at all on her, his wife.

And now he was getting far too involved in this stupid case, all because a posh bird from Bucharest had batted her eyelashes at him.  Well, she would teach him what Gina was capable of, that she would!

The men had been nicely suited, with those fashionable pastel-coloured broad ties that she wished her husband could wear instead of that sweaty police uniform.  They had descended as a synchronised pair from their Dacia with tinted windows.  They had been well-spoken, polite, not at all like the security forces of the olden days.  Yet she had no doubt that was what they were.  Any Romanian worth his or her salt could sniff out these people a mile off, no matter how many manners they might have acquired in the meantime.

They had expressed their concern at Dinu’s over-involvement in this case, which she fully agreed with.  In fact, she hadn’t quite realised quite how many extra enquiries he had made in Pitesti and Bucharest on behalf of the posh bird until these gentlemen made her aware of them.  They asked her if he kept any paperwork at home (she didn’t think so), if he had confided in her any details of the case. He hadn’t and she wasn’t interested anyway, as if she did not have enough worries of her own.

Upon hearing that, they expressed their sympathy. Delighted that someone was finally listening to her, she poured out much more of her daily anxieties than she had intended, even more than she had shared with her girlfriends.  Not that she had many of them here, in this godforsaken little town.  And the men had nodded and taken her seriously, instead of trying to laugh off her concerns.  They had promised… well, she wasn’t quite sure what, but it sounded a relief, a solution to her problems.  Nor was she quite sure if they actually promised anything.  But, at any rate, they painted a picture of future possibilities.  Lifetime employment for herself, a promotion for her husband, most likely a move to a more happening part of the country, a big city.   Where her son could grow up in a civilised fashion, away from the dirt of the crumbling old house and animal shit. An escape from the clutches of her mother-in-law and the building site.  A chance to put herself first, instead of slaving away for others.  A chance to make that life for herself that she had hoped for, but which had somehow passed her by.  Until now.

And all they asked in return was to find out where he kept his notes and evidence from the case, and to hand it over to them, or, failing that, to destroy them.  Sink this nasty little story, which had nothing to do with them.

What could be simpler, more natural?  If (or rather, when) Dinu found out, he would be furious at first, but surely it was time he realised he was not Colombo or whichever of those American detectives were his heroes.  He would thank her once he realised how much they could gain from simply letting things rest.  Leave things be.  It wasn’t like they were hiding something, it was more about not wanting to dig any deeper and uncover unpleasantness.

So, if her husband wasn’t exactly forthcoming with the details, then she would have to snuffle  them out herself.  But she would have to be clever and resourceful, for there was no way that she could access any of his documents at work.   That much was clear. Although she had little respect for the coffee-swilling, nail-painting and endlessly chatting ladies at the police station, she was sure that they had enough basic police training to know not to share any documents with outsiders.  Even outsiders who were married to a police officer.

So what other solution was there?  She would have to convince Dinu to bring his paperwork home.

17 thoughts on “Fragment from the First Draft”

  1. I thought you did very well with the parts about married life and parenthood. For a lot of people, it is not rewarding so that part was realistic. And having someone pay attention to her when not many people did, I thought that demonstrated her motivation to help the men quite well. I’m wondering how she’ll get her husband to bring the evidence home–ooh, a mystery. Nice job!

    1. Thank you, Lisa, for your detailed comments – I really appreciate it. I try to find something that I can understand and relate to, even in my ‘baddies’. And she is not really evil, just fed up and misguided.

      1. You’re welcome. I made it a goal yesterday to learn how to give better feedback to others. I’m glad I could help.

  2. Marina, I was intrigued. Seriously. It seems to me you have really delved into the thought life of this character and understand her motivations. This makes her believeable. First I was relating with her, and then I decided I didn’t like her very much. I know she is not a bad person, but maybe thinking too much of herself. Too wrapped up in her own worries to be able to see the whole picture. And she wants things her way. I have a feeling she will regret what she is about to do?? And then maybe I will like her again. I want to know more about her husband and this other woman. I want to know the rest of the story. 🙂

    1. What wonderfully detailed feedback – thank you so much! I think you’ve described Gina perfectly. The world is full of these ‘not bad people who want things their own way’.

  3. Marina–

    It is very exciting to see where you are going with this! You clearly have plot, well-fleshed characters, and forward movement. I am intrigued by your main character and her situation. I am right there with her with the chocolate. You have some wonderful details.

    “The men had been nicely suited, with those fashionable pastel-coloured broad ties that she wished her husband could wear instead of that sweaty police uniform. They had descended as a synchronised pair from their Dacia with tinted windows. They had been well-spoken, polite, not at all like the security forces of the olden days. Yet she had no doubt that was what they were. Any Romanian worth his or her salt could sniff out these people a mile off, no matter how many manners they might have acquired in the meantime.” I love this paragraph. It sounds like the opening one, to me. I see these guys clearly.

    If I were to offer any piece of advice it would be to tell you not to be afraid to drop down into the scene. As is, you’re looking from afar, telling us what’s true. Instead, you could use dialogue to show what she says to the two men– show her interacting with the chickens and her son to subtly convey her feelings about them–show her sporadically sneaking off to eat some chocolate. Could you use the dialogue with the two security men to let the character tell us directly how she feels about her son, her fears, her life, her mil, her man instead of letting your narrator do it? When I write, I try to break my narrator’s explanations with lots of action, description, and dialogue. I try limit my narrator’s voice and have characters do things to illustrate what the narrator wanted to say if I let her.

    My comment might be more suited to a different genre. Perhaps this is the usual way crime novels are written? If so, ignore my third paragraph!

    This is very exciting, Marina! Juicy. I can’t wait to see what you’ll do next.

    1. Nice and thoughtful – some lovely comments that give me plenty to work with. Sorry, maybe I didn’t make it clear though – Gina is not the main character, just a secondary one, and this is not the opening scene of the novel, but the beginning of a chapter much further in. Which is why I didn’t want to go into too much detail about her. But I do see what you mean about ‘dropping down into the scene’. Thank you so much!

  4. Good work, Marina. You definitely have me wondering what is going to happen. Your style is also nice and lucid. The only suggestion I have (from my novice perspective, so you may take it with a grain of salt) is to develop scenes so that you can “show” the story more than to “tell” it, if you know what I mean. 🙂

Do share your thoughts!

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