This is an exceprt from the beginning of my novel. Please tell me what you think.
|I'm afraid this first introduction to Steve, my character, is boring and that it's dragging on and on. Let me know what you think.
Steve Larson sighed and cursed to himself as he sat in his 4-Runner, trapped in bumper-to-bumper gridlock on Spring Street. Atlanta was already hot, crowded, and angry at eight in the morning. Steve turned up the AC and wondered again why he had to torture himself every morning just to get to work. He turned up the volume on the radio to drown out the noise and chaos that surrounded him. The only reassurance he got from the DJ was a description of the egregeous mess that was downtown Atlanta. As if he needed one. Steve felt his chest tighten as he lit another cigarette. "Why the hell are you even here?" he asked himself aloud. He quickly reminded himself that this mess was a necessary evil. His career was flourishing, and columnists who want to get recognized work and live in the city. Now all he had to do was make it to work on time.
Steve didn't see that happening today. He didn't have to look at his dash clock to realize that he was going to be late again. He was certain that his ill-tempered Deputy Editor, Martin Hurney, would catch him coming in late. Hurney could sniff out latecomers like the dog he was. Steve was his favorite victim. Hurney had never liked Steve for reasons Steve himself wasn't sure of. He suspected that Hurney was a bit jealous. Charlotte Murdock, the editor-in-chief of The Atlanta Journal and Constitution, was particularly fond of Steve, and Hurney seemed to think that Steve had slept his way into the middle-aged tiger lady's good graces. Or something. Lord knows.
Steve's heart began to protest, and he forced himself to stop worrying about Hurney lest he have a spell. The pain in his chest often made him wonder why he even gave a second thought to interoffice politics. He had enough to occupy him. His job had become increasingly stressful. His column continued to get more and more popular, and at the same time, Charlotte had become particularly excited about Steve's talent. He appreciated Charlotte's faith in him, but she continued to pile countless asssignments on top of his weekly column. It was almost more than he could handle, but he didn't dare complain. You have to pay your dues if you want to succeed, and Steve was well aware of it.
Steve sighed again and closed his dark green eyes. He let his head fall back against the headrest and tried to block out all the madness around and inside him. When he failed to ignore all the pesky disractions with which Atlanta was wrought, he thought about Kinney, his hometown. He could see his town quietly awaiting his next visit in its comfortable cradle of moutains northeast of the throbbing Atlanta heat. Fresh and green. Serene and beautiful. Maybe this would be a good weekend to pay that visit he so greatly owed his town and its inhabintants.
Steve opened his eyes and looked at himself in the rearview mirror. He ran his fingers through his longish, wavy black hair and caught a glimpse of the white streak in his hairline over his right eye: a result of his first spell and the panic it had brought down on him. He sighed deeply at the streak and the dark circles under his eyes and let his hair fall back over his forehead. His chest tightened a bit more at the fear that the streak would spread and the circles would darken if he didn't take it easy. He dragged his cigarette and decided that he would definitely go to Kinney for the weekend.
Steve finally made it to work at 9:15. The moment he thought he was safe in his cubicle, Hurney's great sharp splat of a voice yelled, "Larson! You're late! You only got 45 minutes to get ready for the morning meeting!"
"There was traffic, sir," Steve replied. "More than usual. And I'm more than prepared for the meeting."
"I don't give a shit!" the half wizened, half overfed deputy editor exclaimed. "All I know is you've been late five out of the last seven days!" Hurney leaned over and thrust a long, crooked finger at Steve's nose as he growled, "The next time you're late, your ass is mine whether Murdock likes it or not!"
As Hurney stormed off to make someone else's morning miserable, Steve caught the eye of Audrey Preston in the cubicle across the way. Audrey was a lovely red headed society columnist with long legs and that confident sort of grace that all beautiful women possess. She grinned at Steve and flipped Hurney an unladylike gesture. Steve chuckled and made an equally obscene (if not more creative) motion directed at the commonly disliked Hurney. They both laughed and winked at each other before they turned to their work.
As Steve made out a list of all he needed to accomplish for the day, he realized how substantial that list was. Man. Being the Jack of all Trades columnist guy was becoming rather daunting. He had to finish an article about the Braves outfielder who had written an autobiography; organize his interview notes for his piece on the state of the arts council; research court cases against the shock-rocker who was coming to town; finish his column...
Suddenly, Steve became very aware of the frantic pounding in his chest. He felt his ribcage being turned inside out, and a painful bout of arrhythmia set in. "God no," he grunted. He held on to the edge of his desk with one hand and his chest with the other. He looked at his list and felt flashes of heat and his eyes began to lose focus and he told himself over and over to "Calm down. Calm down."
"Steve?" Audrey asked from across the aisle. Her voice sounded like it was coming from the bottom of a Mason jar. "Steve, are you okay?"
He heard the panic in her voice and tried to reply after he swallowed one of his pills, but the clutching, searing pain in his chest wouldn't allow him to speak for the moment.
"Steve, do you need an ambulance?" she asked desperately as heads popped up over cubicle walls nearby. None of his coworkers had seen one of his frightening spells before. He understood why Audrey's pretty face was so pale and alarmed. He imagined he looked rather grotesque and maligned when these things struck. He wished he had been able to make it to the restroom, but this one had hit him very suddenly; which really worried him.
"N..no," he managed to answer Audrey's question. He closed his eyes and took deep breaths as his coworkers continued to look on in shock and (in some cases) horror. Steve sat still and waited for his pill to take effect. When he could no longer hear or feel his heart hammering its rapid, out-of-time cadence, he opened his eyes to see Audrey still poised to help and looking a little green.
"Steve?" she asked timidly. "Are you okay?"
"I am now," Steve sighed. "Thank you." He turned to his desk and prepared to dive into his work as if nothing had happened.
But Audrey wasn't satisfied. "Steve. What just happened to you?"
Steve started to dismiss it again, but he knew Audrey wouldn't leave him alone if he didn't explain himself. "My...my heart," Steve answered reluctantly with a twinge of embarrassment. "I have Long Q-T Syndrome."
"Long Q-T," he repeated. "My heart skips certain impulses in the sequence of my heartbeat, and when I get upset or stressed or whatnot, my heart beats too fast to account for the skips and it kind of gets out of synch. My brother Marty says it's like I've got a bad timing belt."
Audrey looked at him in awe. "How dangerous is it?"
"Not a big deal," he mumbled. He wished he hadn't told her. He wouldn't be able to abide being treated like an invalid: which was usually the reaction he got when he told people.
Audrey continued to look at him skeptically.
"I'm fine, Audrey," Steve snapped a bit more harshly than he meant to. He saw Audrey's wounded expression and felt like a dick. "I'm sorry," he said. "I don't like being reminded about it. It gets in my way and when people see it for the first time, they start looking at me like I'm an exhibit in a museum."
Audrey nodded and replied, "It's okay Steve." She flashed a warm little reassuring smile and concluded, "I understand."
Can you tell anything about the character at this point (meaning his personality)? Or does there need to be more in this section?