Tuesday, May 22, 2007

New Beginning 280

Before the cavalry of buses marched up to the school loop, before the kids of East Hill Elementary shot out of buses four through twelve, before Principal Weins changed the letters of the schoolyard sign to read ‘Happy Summer,’ Sharon Deemers crept around to the back of the school, slid the dumpster door open, and trashed her birthday party invitations.

She almost got away with it.

“Hey! Garage Girl! Watcha throwin’ in the school dump?” Brian called out from behind a tree.

“Just some papers from home.” Sharon zipped up her backpack, or ‘patchpack’ as she called it, and walked backwards a couple of steps. She eyed Brian, then eyed the dumpster.

“I’m gonna get me a closer look,” Brian taunted. He took the Orioles baseball cap off his greasy brown hair, walked over to the dumpster, and peered into the opening. Sharon stood a few feet away, frozen to the spot.

After Brian lifted out one of the gaily colored invitations, after he sounded the words out phonetically and got the gist it was for a skating party, after he laughed so hard spit came out his right nostril, Sharon shoved his head forward, flattening the card between his nose and the dumpster.

"Hey, whadja do that for?" Brian sniffed, rubbing what Sharon hoped was a broken nose.

"Because, Baseball Boy, those lame invitations are the decoys I showed my parents. The real party is down at Bronsky's. It's BYOB, and there's a $5 cover. You in?"

Opening: Takoda.....Continuation: Phoenix


ME said...

before the kids of East Hill Elementary shot out of buses four through twelve

If school is just letting out, how could the kids be on the buses already? Wouldn't it be "before the kids shot out of the exit doors"?

Theo Katz said...

Interesting opening. I'd keep reading.

Me, the way I understood this, it's the beginning of the last day of school.

takoda said...

Hi me said --It's in the morning, as the kids are getting off the buses and filing into school. That will become clear in the next couple of paragraphs...Thanks for posting!

Phoenix, I LOVE your continuation!! Can I use your bit about the spit coming out of the nose? It's just perfect! But I loved the whole thing--LOL!!


Robin S. said...

Hi takoda,

I really liked this, and I'd read more. I really liked Sharon being called "Garage Girl" by the boy - makes me want to find out why.

Phoenix- really good continuation.
Voice was just right, and the end twist was a pleasure.

Dave said...

Just an opinion, as I read the "before list" I had this odd thought about how Sharon had to use underarm deodorant and whitening mouthwash to be presentable. I reminded me of those celebrity commercials.
I'm not sure what that means.

Rachel said...

Takoda -

I thought it was the end of school too. The reason was because the principle changed the sign to "happy summer" indicating school was finished. Changing the words to "last day of school" or something would solve the problem.

Kanani said...

3 very small things, but important in order to avoid the slush pile.

While I understand and even like the energy, the rhythm of the 'befores' it overshadows the last line that tells us the most important thing....which is that Sharon trashed her party invitations.

I understand that you have an onslaught of buses, as though they were a calvary, but it's a stretched simile at best, especially to say that they marched.

The rest of it is fine. Just make sure you don't get too carried aways with idioms and exclamation points throughout the book.

takoda said...

Hi Robin, Thanks! This explains the garage girl:

Ever since second grade, Bully Brian called Sharon ‘Garage-Girl.’ The nickname stuck, and haunted her throughout third, fourth, and now fifth grade. Three years ago, Sharon’s family moved out of an apartment on top of a restaurant, and into a cinder-block garage that Mr. Jupesky used for storage. It took a long time to save enough for the down payment, but when Sharon’s mom offered to buy the garage, Mr. Jupesky promptly removed his boxes, lawn mower, and collection of plastic Christmas trees. He even helped obtain the proper permits and found a contractor to put in the plumbing, electicity, and gas stove.

Hope that wasn't too long. And it's a real rough first draft.

Hi Dave, that was really funny! LOL!

Hi Rachel, Thanks for that suggestion--I'll do it! As my 6 year old character would say: Easy peezy lemon squeazy.

Hi Kanini, point taken. But I wanted to indicate the time and setting and mood of the character in as few words as possible. I'm not good at the long expository stuff. But I will definitely keep it in mind as I'm writing, and I appreciate that you took the time to comment. Thanks! (And I know what you mean about the exclamations..sometimes I overindulge)


Robin S. said...

Hi takoda,

Thansk for the explanation for Garage Girl. Sounds great- so many people can identify with being pegged an outcast in school buy some fool for something about themselves. I like it.

And, I gotta say, I really like the rhythm of your opening paragraph- the befores, the image of the cavalry, etc., followed by the small, sharp, one sentence second paragraph. I think this is very effective.

ME said...

Not trying to be a pain here. I drop my son off every morning at middle school and the kids Do Not shoot out of the buses. I'll make a point of observing their demeanor on the actual last day, (coming up soon here)and report back to you,if you would like me to. Generally, they seem to sort of gracelessly tumble out, looking behind them for their friends to follow, or they look around to find their friends who don't ride the bus or they just look down at the sidewalk, probably because they have no friends.

The thing I notice most about the school yard (AM & PM) is the groupings, the clusters of kids like little planets, and the errantry of the individual-types bouncing around the middle school universe as they seem to ricochet from one group to another.

I liked this over at openings and read it several times. I liked the "patchpack" and "Garage Girl". I wondered what consequences Sharon would face by dumping the invites.

I wonder if EE will ever consider increasing the Openings word count?

phoenix said...

Hi Takoda:

You are more than welcome to my spit.

Er, to spit coming out the nose.

Aww, heck, you know what I mean! :o)

Good job on the beginning. I hope we get to see more!

ME said...

Oh you did say elementary school, didn't you. Well, the little ones are a little more animated. Even so, they seem much happier leaving school than they do at arrival.

takoda said...

Hi Theo, Sorry I haven't thanked you for posting. My first post overlapped with yours, then I just forgot on the second one. But I appreciate the nice thoughts!

Hi Me Said..Thanks also for reading it so carefully and giving me constructive feedback. I've actually never witnessed kids getting off a bus the last day. I just assumed there'd be a lot of energy because of the anticipation of parties, etc. But you are right--I need to take notes!

Robin, Thanks again!

Phoenix, I already took liberties with your spit. It found a nice home on page 3. Thanks!!


Beth said...

I like this opening (and the continuation [g]). I'd make a couple of suggestions, though. First, the cavalry metaphor doesn't quite work, because one doesn't think of cavalry as marching. It charges, it gallops...so maybe the buses could 'charge' or 'roar' up the hill. (I like the second option best, since it works on two levels: implying robust, energetic movement, like that of a cavalry, and it also references the sound the buses make.) Second, the use of the word 'buses' twice so close together sounds a sour note in an otherwise euphonius paragraph. Even just changing the second use to "bus doors" would help.

But otherwise, this is a great start and I'd like to know why she's trashing her birthday invitations.

Kanani said...

Go over Noah Lukeman's "The First Five Pages."

Anonymous said...

Like others, I can't quite follow the initial imagery. Things that puzzle me are: why calvary? (don't they usually come and get you out of trouble? How does bringing in dozens of kids qualify as that?) Why only buses four through twelve? (I didn't bus to school - maybe I don't understand - but I'm worried about buses one through three. Did they get lost? Or are the kids on those buses slackers who wouldn't shoot out of anything? What gives?)

The idea behind the paragraph is good. Sharon's behavior contrasts nicely with the typical end of school scenario. But the confusing bits distract the reader from Sharon and her party invitations.

stick and move said...

Man, I just love the word "euphonious". Thanks Beth. I'm going to find a way to use that word in conversation tomorrow :-)

AmyB said...

I liked this overall and it has a nice hook.

I'm in the group that was confused by what seemed like conflicting images in the opening sentence. I, too, thought it was afternoon with school letting out, thus the buses arriving and then the kids shooting out of them didn't make sense to me.

I was fine with the "cavalry of buses" phrase. Worked for me.

I think some small-scale tightening wouldn't hurt. Like "She eyed Brian, then eyed the dumpster" could be "She eyed Brian, then the dumpster." But that's a stylistic thing.

Anonymous said...

When I'm going through a MS, I'm actually looking for reasons to dismiss one because our slush pile is pretty big.

So things like poor sentence construction or imagery that doesn't jive immediately signals that this can be found throughout the book. That in fact the writer is just not that developed to catch it himself or he won't listen to others in a critique group.

There have been a few that have the calvary of buses right away. This alone should signify that you need to let go of it and change it. Seems silly to hold onto something that might just blow years of hard work into the trashcan.

takoda said...

Thanks, last anon, that's really good advice. It's a first, unedited draft. I'm only into my third chapter, so it's really in the beginning stages.

Since a lot of people who took the time to comment were confused, I need to rethink my opening. The calvary has marched on to greener pastures. (As an aside, I laughed at the anon who wrote about 'slacker buses!')

I'll rethink and re-post at a later date.

Thanks again to everyone!!


McKoala said...

Late to the party...I think someone threw my invitation in a dumpster.

I can't really say anything different - I also assumed they were going home, because of the principal changing the sign. And also agreeing that they kids aren't that keen to get into school (getting out is a different matter). Overall I thought it was a nice opening, though.