Michael Stang Enters the Auditorium

(Pictures don’t lie! North Koreans and L’il Kim applaud as Michael Stang enters the auditorium to read his entry into our contest Once Upon a Time. Dennis Rodman, traveling incognito, blends in disguised with shades and a baseball cap and piercings so popular in  host’s country) Literati!  Michael Stang has decided that the only way …

(Pictures don’t lie! North Koreans and L’il Kim applaud as Michael Stang enters the auditorium to read his entry into our contest Once Upon a Time. Dennis Rodman, traveling incognito, blends in disguised with shades and a baseball cap and piercings so popular in  host’s country)

Literati! 

Michael Stang has decided that the only way to win our contest is to enter it.  Who can argue with such logic? We do hope that those of you reading will enter it as well.  I have spoken with a lotta folks (actually, just one) about the contest who say they are not writing a novel so won’t be entering. DUH!  If you write a prologue, you are writing a novel!

Take the first step, which is intent. Once you write a prologue, you will undoubtedly discover you actually do have a novel locked up in your computer.  Consider your keyboard a combination lock.  We are offering $500 in prizes, and to sweeten the pot, the editor-in-chief (moi) is offering a date to the McDonalds of his choice (Dutch) in lieu of all the other cash prizes, books, and Barnes and Noble gift cards we have put up.  Check out what you can win and who you have to do to win it here:

http://www.awordwithyoupress.com/2014/03/20/once-upon-a-time-our-new-contest/

In the meantime, here is the prologue to Mike Stang’s attempt to draw attention away from Gary Clark’s entry, with the working title:

SOUND BARRIER

by Michael Stang

Sounds penetrated the walls differently, at different times, depending on the time of day. Nights screamed with northern winds and pain. Mornings were a morning after, pound for pound of flesh, a jackhammer against all things living. We waited for the afternoons, waited for the barracks to settle down; I waited for the ringing in my head to stop. There, between hell and brimstone, my mind dominated, and warmed what was left of my bones.

In those few moments, I dared to be careless. Stretched on the deck floor, I marked my limbs in dust. I winced behind the locked doors from my wounds and the smell of human piss, weak, recent, not strong enough. No one could shit: to shit was an act of freedom.

I was fortunate from most. I had the margin of unrestraint. Most of the prisoners hung from hooks that were lagged into the concrete walls, latched to their wrists and waists with slave bracelets. The way to lie down was to die, reaching the floor only with their foreheads.

Guards took a brake around the same time. Nightsticks and tasers rested besides the family style tables, set with Korean food that made me puke to smell it.

As I said, I was lucky. The intelligence on me revealed I owned a pig farm back in the states, and knew a lot about food and demand, and global economy. They knew I was a graduate from UCLA. I was a golden boy, but they singled me out not because of what I could have done to improve the starvation of North Korea’s population, or the dehydration of my fellow inmates. I was pegged for press coverage, and therefore had to look healthy, or at least able to stand straight. “Smug,” they called it, behind the cameras. Look at the American, educated in the best schools, prosperous, a philanthropist. Look at him now, an enemy of our glorious nation. The devil incarnate, personally involved in crimes against out Dear Leader. This pig will die.

They had one thing right. I was dying. Another thing wrong—the crimes.

There was no time.

There was no escape.

There were only the sounds of death, and the guards coming back from lunch.

16 comments

  1. Julie Mark Cohen says:

    Michael,

    Very well done. Timely (unfortunately). Engaging. Intriguing. You made me care about your narrator. I want to read more.

    Since you used the words “global economy,” I’m guessing that this takes place now, rather than
    during the Korean Conflict/War? If your story is set in the early 1950s, you may want to double-check on the terminology that was used back then.

    Below are some comments to please kindly take or toss as you wish. The most important one is regarding your first sentence, which I’d like to suggest that you omit. What do you think?

    — –

    Sounds penetrated the walls
    differently, at different times, depending on the time of day. Nights screamed with northern winds and pain. Mornings were a morning after, pound for pound of flesh, a jackhammer against all things living. We waited for the afternoons, waited for the barracks to settle down; I waited for the ringing in my head to stop. There, between hell and brimstone, my mind dominated, and warmed what was left of my bones.

    >> Above, your first sentence is intriguing, but I’d like to read something stronger. What would happen if you simply deleted it? Your second and third sentences are much stronger, more engaging.

    In those few moments, I dared to be careless. Stretched on the deck floor, I marked my limbs in dust. I winced behind the locked doors from my wounds and the smell of human piss, weak,
    recent, not strong enough. No one could shit: to shit was an act of freedom.

    >> Above, a suggestion to consider:

    >> Behind locked doors, I stretched on the deck floor and marked my limbs in the dust, wincing from my wounds and the smell of human piss, weak, recent, not strong enough.
    >> Or…
    >> I stretched on the deck floor and marked my limbs in the dust, wincing from my wounds and the smell of human piss, weak, recent, not strong enough, from behind locked doors.

    [paragraph snipped]

    Guards took a brake around the same time. Nightsticks and tasers rested besides the family style tables, set with Korean food that made me puke to smell it.

    >> Above:
    >> brake –> break

    >> Above:
    >> besides –> beside

    [sentences snipped].

    I was a golden boy, but they singled me out not because of what I could have done to improve the starvation of North Korea’s population, or the dehydration of my fellow inmates.

    [sentences snipped]

    >> Above, *improve* the dehydration of my fellow inmates ? Something seemed a bit off to me, here.

    • Thank you, Julie. As always, your comments/suggestions/corrections are always welcomed. I agree the first sentence could be stronger, but I don’t really want to delete it. In my mind, the second sentence is right where it should be.

      • Julie Mark Cohen says:

        Hi, Michael,
        You’re welcome. I hope that a few of my comments are somewhat helpful.
        To help orient the readers, is there a way to sneak in a reference to 1970? Maybe, your narrator says something about the (comparable, worse, or better) treatment of prisoners in Vietnam? Or, is there a non-war event that would help with this? You don’t have to mention a specific date, just give a clear clue. “They landed a man on the moon last year, but they can’t help me on Earth.” <– just a thought. Whatcha think?

        A prologue from me is brewing. I often ask writer friends to critique my pieces before I post them. This morning, I received a critique with lots of negative constructive criticism. The critic saw what I clearly missed, so I shall do my best to revise. Dazzle? I wish. I'm just hoping to keep the readers' attention from start to finish. Maybe, 500-600 words. The more I read about "how to write" Prologues, the more I understand why shorter is better. Also, a fair number of online posts talk about (too) many readers intentionally skipping over Prologues, which, to me, means that Chapter 1 needs to start out with a "bang"… just in case…

  2. Parisianne Modert says:

    “Sound Barrier” by Michael Stang grants the reader the richest of descriptives concerning prisoner of war existence from one soldier’s perspective. The contrast of the life which this “golden boy” lived in his past compared to his guarded, tortured and manipulated life in Korea is one of privileged accomplishments versus exquisite pain trapped within an extreme, foreign reality.

    This prologue sets the scene for chapter one yet leaves flexibly with the word ending of “There was no time. There was no escape. There were only sounds of death, and the guards coming back from lunch.”

    I remain a fan of your fine writing and story telling skills Michael.

    • Thank you, Parisianne. I glow with the thought that you are a fan. I know it’s a rocky road sometimes, and I don’t mind you telling me so when it is. Your comments about the writing (like Gary’s) inspire the writer in me to do battle with the first chapter in the theme of the prologue. I consider you a (very) creative writer.

      • Parisianne Modert says:

        I could think of no finer compliments, so I thank you kind sir. Chapter One is ending up quite the writing project for me as well. I applaud and encourage each writer to keep writing, editing with fervent fermenting spirit their own Chapter One’s as well as their Prologue entries if not already entered. The more the merrier I say to encourage this community of artist bringing life to their stories. No matter which Prologues advance into Chapter Ones in the semi-finals, the grand camaraderie plays onward lighting up these black pages in cyber space. What an incredible way to celebrate our lives together in verse.

        We often converse with challenging thoughts and critique, but in our hearts we know that no one, but another writer can appreciate the effort of love we place in our art. For the gift of being allowed to be part of this community, I am humble and grateful.

  3. Gary says:

    First of all, Mike, this is you at your best. Brother, I don’t know where you’ve been or what you’ve experienced in your life, but I do know this – it was not a charmed, country club existence. No one could write of terror and torture as you have done without having experienced it, and I’m glad that you’ve found an outlet for those horrible days through your writing.
    As far as a critique, I have one suggestion and that is not to take Julie’s suggestion to delete the first sentence. With all due respect to her, this is a man’s story and the first sentence of your prologue, to me, is a statement of, “I’m going to give you the recipe for a truly f****ed up day” and then you give the three ingredients in words that cannot be misunderstood.. From that, you go into each part of the day and how the sounds are different at different times of day.
    The tone is as evil as the guards – the language is harsh and honest. These qualities give credibility to your prologue and I don’t believe anyone who hasn’t experienced something as terrorizing as this prologue is could write such a detailed description of the horrors of being held in a POW camp.
    GOOD JOB *pats Stang on the back and gives him a man-hug*.

    • Thank you, Gary. From your reaction to the writing, I’m thinking that maybe there is a right track here to go on. Spot on about the country club. Never got close enough to smell the sweat of charmed. Julie has a point about making the opening sentence stronger. Openings can always be stronger. I may decide to change it, but not delete it. This is good for the soul. I do not belong to a writer’s club, and tend to shy away, so my writing lacks a group’s opinion. Maybe when I lose the hammer for a living, and retire to the writer’s loft for good … who knows. For now you guys are all I got. For the rest I will pay an editor; as it happens, I know a good one.

  4. “Mornings were a morning after… a jackhammer against all things living”, is the line that tilted my head into “WHOA” mode. From there I am thrilled, scared, disgusted, sad, curious… and then the second paragraph. The questions are raised and touched upon briefly. I can see this would not be a book for lovers of Jane Austen, but for those who enjoy reading about sniper rifles and navy seal exploits. Still, it is as Julie said, timely and if the war in Vietnam was a country club, then your writing would tell me you must have been a dishwasher.

    This prologue is a testosterone shot, with extra grit, and it’s length is good (I tried to write this differently but it’s the best way I can say it. I am gonna get Thorned I just know it – dangit). Adrenaline is pumping. Intrigue is seeded quite nicely. Makes me think of the beginning of Robin Hood – Prince of Thieves, but in a good way.

    If it weren’t for the awesome constructive criticisms (and Thorn’s nagging), I wouldn’t even invest my time. But I will. It’s the only avenue I have for improvement at this point. I WANNA BE LIKE YOU GUYS WHEN I GROW UP! (Cries my inner writer)… Got Gary’s, and now yours… all we need is Sal and FJ and the AWwYP Rat Pack is complete. I think I would pass out from sheer awesomeness if you all were to collaborate on a piece. Write on, mah brutha! Write on!

    • Thank you, Tiffany, but where would we all be if it were not for your writing as well. It takes (this) village.
      Is that Hillary in the corner shaking her head yes?
      Thanks for the whoa mode, come on, let’s whoa together.

      • Like I said. I wanna be better mang! I like the way we are all allowed to have our genres and talents. I post and comment and learn and you guys feed into this thing we all eat to get better as writers. This submission is a tough act to follow, but yes, I will put something in. I have no hopes of winning, but I try to up my game with each new post. If only to see if I can get a really cool video from YouTube when it gets posted… lol

  5. Mike Casper says:

    ANOTHER great writing event by Mr. Stang, I used to like Korean food, now not so much. Well done, sir! Happily I still have dust in my nose from reading the Cowboy’s entry so I can’t smell take out. I might have to enter this contest after all…this is FUN!

    • Yes it is, Mike. And with your hat in the ring it will be funnier. Ah, no that’s no right, but you get me mirth? Good to see you. Let’s rock and roll.

  6. Jack Horne says:

    Love this, Mike. Written with your usual panache, my friend. I was waiting for your entry and I see it was there all along! Have a great day : )
    Jack

  7. Diane Cresswell says:

    I know I’m late in reading these entries but then better late than never!!! I’ll say this again without any kind of funny attached… you are one of the best writers I have ever read and humbly privileged to know. What an entrance to a story that you have hatching in that creative mind of yours… and like a little kid… I want MORE!!! Sorry for being so late in getting to read these entries…but worth it for me.

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