love at first sight blogfest, or, go eat a heart-shaped cookie

Courtney Reese is hosting a love at first sight blogfest, in which writer's write about the icky love stuff. Check it out -- there are already a ton of entries over there.

Okay, so my scene isn't really love at first sight for my mc, Laurel (in fact, she doesn't even want it to be) but this is the first time she interacts with her second love interest, David. 

Read! Enjoy! Critique!


     A sea of southerners filled the lobby of the movie theater. David Winter stood at a neon orange podium in the center of the throng, his head throbbing. He tore off one ticket stub after another, pointed the masses in the appropriate direction. The work was monotonous. Most of the patrons were lost in conversations with one another, and they paid David the same lack of attention that he showed them. He tried not to grimace at the giggling teenage girls, the smug looking guys in gold chains, the overweight middle aged couples: all annoyed him equally. Thankfully, the line was starting to ebb a bit as all of the seven o'clock showings were beginning. He rubbed his longish brown hair out of his face; he was lightly sweating.
     David stood almost six feet tall and weighed one hundred and forty pounds, soaking wet, on a good day, as his mother described him, to his chagrin. She didn't think he ate enough because she rarely saw him eat. Family dinners were anything but routine at the Winter household.
     He tore off a couple more stubs for some college jocks.
     "Thanks, guy." He was roughly smacked on the back, the gesture of a bro. David rolled his eyes, not bothering to respond. He slightly hunched his shoulders and then rolled them back, a nervous twitch, but effective in adjusting his too-big theater provided t-shirt: his uniform. He wiped his hands on the back pockets of his black pants. He didn't notice Laurel looking at him. He was still reeling from the exchange with the frat boy, stupid motherfucker in Abercrombie.

     Laurel was carefully crossing the lobby, slowly headed out of a box office. Now that the line had dissipated she would let the ticket sellers handle it alone. Part of her job as an assistant manager was crowd control, and she intended to check on the customers at the concession stand. She met David's eye as she neared the podium and flashed him a smile. They had never spoken. Laurel pegged David as mysterious, maybe a little shy. She smoothed the wrinkles out of her cotton sundress by grabbing each side and pulling outward, like a dancer gearing up for a curtsy. Behind David, the line at the concession stand billowed out, full of grumbling moviegoers willing to sacrifice previews for popcorn. David looked miserable at his post. He didn't smile back at Laurel, rather, in response, raised his eyebrows a bit and looked away, as if he was wondering why she smiled at him, or thought it ridiculous that she had. Laurel briefly contemplated being offended, but decided to consider his reaction a challenge.
     "David, right?" Laurel reached up and puts her hand on the podium, and leaned in a little more than necessary to be heard over the din. She stared up at the lanky stranger and resisted the urge to bat her eyelashes.
     "Yeah, and you're Laurel. I guess I am supposed to call you Ms. Lancaster?" He looked down at the rubber mat under his feet. Laurel grimaced, a little embarrassed. She thought it absurd that the staff must address managers as if they were high school teachers.
     "Uh, Laurel's fine with me." She scanned the lobby for any sign of their general manager. "Well, unless Peterson is around."
     David tore a couple more stubs. He didn't know what to make of Laurel's attempt at small talk. He got the impression that she might be flirting with him.
     "So, you've only worked here for a couple of weeks, and I can just tell that you already absolutely love it." Her sarcasm remotely amused him.
     Laurel turned and spotted another usher sweeping up stray kernels and straw wrappers into a dustpan.
     "Joey, wanna take podium for awhile?" She smiled sweetly at the overweight, bespectacled boy. "I'm gonna put the newbie on trash." She faced David. "You. Come with me."

     David followed Laurel down a hallway, past standees for soon-to-be summer blockbusters. She stopped at the door of theater number twenty, opened it and gestured David in. David consulted his crumpled time sheet. House 20, Scary Movie, 7:15.
     "Didn't this showing just start fifteen minutes ago?" David checked his watch and then glanced up at Laurel, genuinely confused.
     Laurel and David settled in between the sets of double doors. She leaned against the wall, dark purple and the texture of carpet. "We aren't taking out the trash. We're carding."
     David raised one eyebrow. "Carding?"
     "Yeah, we're gonna stand here and bust the twelve-year-olds who try to sneak in." This wasn't technically part of Laurel's job description, but she took joy in bursting the bubbles of preteens.
     Next to her, awkwardly, David allowed himself to lean against the wall as she did.
     "So, you're going off to art school in the fall? That's the rumor, anyway." Laurel had learned little about David since he began working at the theater. No one explicitly told her that he was an artist, but he had that aura about him: chiseled jaw, birdish features, faraway look in his eyes. He reminded her of Adam, or maybe she just want him to. She mentally scolded herself.
     "No, um, music. I'm starting at U of L in the fall." He's staying in Louisville. Laurel felt a little flutter, and thought for a moment that the flutter wasn't necessarily a good thing. Laurel just wanted a proper summer romance, a fling that could later be flung and left by the wayside for what it was.
     Still, she wanted to keep him talking. "Vocal?" Laurel pictured him strumming a guitar, very sexy-singer-songwriter.
     "Composition, actually. I'm not much of a singer. I play bari-sax, er, baritone saxophone. Classical, orchestral."
     Their attempt at conversation was interrupted by two sheepish looking boys who walked into the theater. Laurel straightened up, cleared her throat and put on her professional voice.
     "Ticket stubs, please."
     The boys eyed each other. One of them waved his hand nonchalantly. "We, uh, must have left them back at our seats. We just went out to get Junior Mints." He held up the box of evidence.
     "Well, then, I guess if we just look at your i.d.'s we can let you slide."
     The other boy cleared his throat. "Seriously?"
     "Yes. Seriously." The boys looked at each other. They knew they had been caught. "No go on back to Chicken Run or whatever," said Laurel.
     "Come on." The boy who had spoken first looked Laurel straight in the face, his arms crossed. "What are you going to do if we don't?"
     Laurel held up her two way radio. She calmly spoke into it. "Officer Woodson, what's your twenty?" The boys didn't understand the lingo. Laurel was merely asking the Friday night security guy to let her know his current location, but they tensed at her mention of the word officer.
     Their eyes widened and they quickly backtracked out into the hall. David laughed.
     "Did you think we needed back up? I could've taken those punks!"
     Laurel eased back against the wall and allowed her shoulder to brush David's arm. "I didn't even press the TALK button." She giggled.

     David and Laurel spent the next hour alternately chatting and repeating the same scenario with a few more under-aged miscreants. Laurel learned that she and David attended the same high school, though he graduated a year later than she did (he was in Adam's class, she couldn't help noting) and that he grew up no more than five minutes from her own childhood home. They found it strange that neither knew of the other -- their suburban school was by no means small -- but they ultimately agreed they didn't run in the same social circles.
     "You were cooler than me in high school," David determined.
     "I wouldn't say that. I was a drama nerd. School plays, poetry readings. I took myself way too seriously." Laurel again tried to push away the memory of Adam. A year after their breakup, she was still aching for him. She alternated between feeling devoted and pathetic.
     "I was in band. Bottom feeder."
     Laurel rolled her eyes, though she knew with certainty that she never would have dated him in high school. It would have been social suicide. "Well, I was maybe one or two rungs above you on the coolness ladder," she allowed. They gazed at each other, all grins, and Laurel momentarily forgot her breath. The static sound of her two-way radio sliced through the moment like a dull steak knife, leaving jagged edges and things unsaid.
     "Ms. Lancaster, we need quarters at the concession stand."

Comments

I like all the tiny details--you get a strong sense of the characters:-)
Amalia T. said…
I agree with Frankie-- you do a great job of giving us details. I LOVED your opening line about the sea of southerners. You have great imagery and characterization from the start, even on the characters who are just incidental!

as far as critique goes, I noticed that you slip back and forth between Laurel and David's POV within the same sections. I wasn't sure if it was on purpose or not-- I wonder if it would be stronger to keep each section to one character's POV, and alternate with the white space breaks?

I'm loving David!
Interesting hookup between these two characters. I like that parting line about the steak knife and things unsaid.
Elle Strauss said…
Thanks for sharing your scene. I got a good sense of who your two main characers were, and how they felt about each other.
VR Barkowski said…
Rich, beautiful detail. Love that we get a glimpse of how things have changed since the vacuum that is high school, and that we see Laurel's damage - her inability to keep her thoughts from straying to Adam. The "head hopping" between David and Laurel was a bit jarring at first, because I'm not used to it - but that may just be me. By the end I was hooked.
Denise said…
You do a great job of building their characters. I got a strong sense of who they were. Good job!
Wendy Sparrow said…
Wow... you really do get a feel for their personalities and situations. Nicely done, Amber. This is really perfection in character study.
Aww, sexy band geek, love that. Great details, really grounded me in the scene.

And crit wise, I agree with Amalia, beware the head hopping, but other than that, great job. :)
Thanks to all for the comments -- but calling me out on the head hopping has my head spinning. Roni, fiction groupie and my virtual guru, blogged about this very recently, and I knew I was guilty as sin.

I didn't realize, though, just how much I do it.

Argh! What can I do to fix this? I like being in both their heads - as an amateur wrier, I thought that was one of the advantages to writing in third person.

You've all given me a ton to think about, so thank you for your feedback.
Kelly Lyman said…
Great scene- I loved all the details you wrote you in, it really gave me a sense of what was going on- I could really picture it and had a strong sense of the characters.
I loved this. Detailed and full of atmosphere.

David seems as if he is going to be in over his head.
Nicely detailed set-up for the characters. Very descriptive. And a great opening line that made me want to read more.
laurel said…
Amber: I really like the voice here, especially the snatches of humor.

As far as the head-hopping goes, I think I saw it most in that transition section in the middle in which he have both David's thoughts about Laurel and her thoughts about him. Start by dividing the sections differently--David's POV first, the blank line, then Laurel's POV. It also might help to go through with a highlighter and color David's thoughts blue and Laurel's pink. Then move the material to each character's section. Or maybe just cut some material that's misplaced.
A little revision and this will shine.
Ok, I jsut have to say that the bit about them carding for preteens--oh my word, I cracked up. Loved these little details. I also enjoyed the way you have them coming together, and there is an obvious sort of...not attration, but a general pull, I guess, towards one another, but it's clear Laurel is still hooked on someone else. It's certainly intriguing, and makes me wonder how it will all play out, especially when they go away to school. Well done.
Haha--it's cute!

Out of many great moments, I loved this:
David tore a couple more stubs. He didn't know what to make of Laurel's attempt at small talk. He got the impression that she might be flirting with him.
Ashley Stone said…
I like it!! I'm definitely reading between the lines! haha. I would buy the book for sure! ; )
Jon Paul said…
Amber--Wow! I'm impressed.

I thought the whole setting felt very real--the details put me right in the scene--and both characters were well drawn. The friction between them kept me engaged, but also hinted at more to come.

Nicely done. Thanks for stopping by my place and for the follow BTW.
Amber, it's tough to resist hopping heads, but taking it out can help build even more tension because we have to guess what the other is thinking. So give sections to each character (decent sized sections and preferably only switch POV once per scene-if at all). And then give us hints about what the other is thinking through their actions.

Example of how to fix it (the bold parts are what I added, italics are what to cut):

"Uh, Laurel's fine with me." She scanned the lobby for any sign of their general manager. "Well, unless Peterson is around."
David tore a couple more stubs and narrowed his eyes at her. (cut: He didn't know what to make of Laurel's attempt at small talk. He got the impression that she might be flirting with him.)
"So, you've only worked here for a couple of weeks, and I can just tell that you already absolutely love it." (cut:Her sarcasm remotely amused him.)
He smirked.
Laurel turned and spotted another usher sweeping up stray kernels and straw wrappers into a dustpan.
"Joey, wanna take podium for awhile?" She smiled sweetly at the overweight, bespectacled boy. "I'm gonna put the newbie on trash." She faced David. "You. Come with me."

That way you stay in Laurel's POV, but get an idea of how David's feeling by his actions.

Oh and since I'm in crit mode, this line: He didn't notice Laurel looking at him. He was still reeling from the exchange with the frat boy, stupid motherfucker in Abercrombie. is author intrusion because we're in his POV so who is saying he didn't notice.

Okay, hope that helps!
Roni, thanks for taking the time to do that. I really appreciate it.

I guess I thought writing in third was sort of like playing god with my characters. I see what you mean about building tension, and also think that staying in one head at once will allow to reader to relate to each charcter better. (I think sometimes it's hard to engage when reading in third.)

I sort of feel like an amateur at the moment, but I know you were trying to help -- and you really did! Thank you!
Diana Paz said…
Gorgeous writing Amber. I like the clear picture we get of how they've changed and who they are. Nice!

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