Monday, November 05, 2007

New Beginning 398

Twelve-year-old Tony was well aware he lived in a putrid house. Life forced him to share his small and cramped dwelling with a rotten mother and father who insisted on being the boss of him. Also contaminating the house were four older sisters who tried to ruin his every waking moment: Theresa, Tiffany, Tina, and Tammy. Tony was the baby ‘T.’

“You skinny little worm. You don’t need lunch today.” Seventeen-year-old Theresa threw a piece of cheese and a slice of tomato at Tony, then ordered him out of the kitchen. He peeked around the corner and watched her gobble all the potato chips and most of the good cereal.

Tony’s quick-thinking brain made a calculation. Reason for running away number 97: Piggy-T ate all his food. Again.

Tony stomped into the bathroom and realized his survival was at stake. He had to tiptoe around Tiffany’s pink socks and pink hair ribbons and (ewww!) even her pink underwear so he could make it to the toilet and pee. When he finished, he poured a glob of shampoo on top of every pink girl cootie he could find. Lazy Tiffany’s mess gave Tony reason number 98 for packing it up and getting the heck out of town.

Within seconds he heard his mother's grating voice.

"Tony!" Her clodding steps reached the bathroom and she flung open the door . . . without even knocking! "Boy," she said, "what are you doing in here all this time? Look at the mess in--" Tony followed his mother's gaze as it fell on Tiffany's pink underwear with the glistening glob of shampoo sitting right in the centre. "Jesus Christ, boy, what in God's name . . . ?"

It looked like Mom was about to provide reason number 99.

Opening: Church Lady.....Continuation: Anonymous


Evil Editor said...

Unchosen Continuations:

He needed two more reasons and he would have the 100 dad required for him to run away. He got good ones today from Theresa and Tiffany. It was time to check on Tina and Tammy.

--Sarah L.

But then again, the money was still rolling in from that Lolita-porn site he'd set up after installing a hidden webcam in Tina and Tammy's room, so maybe he'd stick around after all.

--Paul Penna

Tony went into the front yard to annoy squirrels in the trees and give them reasons to leave town. Then, the neighborhood bully, thirteen-year-old Bart, and his gang walked by.

"Hey, it's Bony Tony." Bart gave Tony a shove. That was reason 99 to get the heck out of town. Every time Tony got up, Bart pushed him back down.

"Stop it, Bart."

"Stop it? Why? It's like fun, man." Bart started to shove Tony again, but felt a tap on his shoulder. He looked around and Theresa bent him over with a knee to the stomach followed by a not-so-girly uppercut to the nose. Bart went down on his knees.

"Hey look, everyone," said Theresa. "Big, tough Bart here just got beat up by a girl in a pink "Girls rule and boys drool" teeshirt and pink skirt. Tell all your friends!"

"And pink underware!" added Tony.

Theresa kicked Tony in the butt. She then shoved Bart over onto his back with her foot. "If you mess with my brother again, I'm going to punch your lights out again, in the school yard. Got it?"

Bart got it.

Tony then made a quick calculation. That kick in the butt was reason number 12 for getting the heck out of town.

--Bill Highsmith

His plan was perfect: Tony knew exactly where to go and exactly how to get there. He'd had plenty of time to figure it all out, hidden in his tiny bedroom in the attic, the only place where the T-girl cooties couldn't get to him. There was only one flaw: Money. He needed money for the bus ticket out of town.

His lightning fast brain made another series of calculations and suddenly he had it! Tony stooped down and, using just his thumb and forefinger, picked up Tiffany's crumpled pink panties. Now to figure out how to get them onto ebay.


Evil Editor said...

I tend to think a 17-year old girl, who's presumably a high school senior, thinking about college, boys, etc., isn't the sister most likely to throw pieces of cheese and tomato at her 12-year-old brother. I'd go with the 13-year-old sister for that.

Dave Fragments said...

Sorry church Lady, I think you're overdoing it unless this is a broad satire kinda teen novella thing that every page reeks with satire.

The images in each paragraph (the Baby T, the food fight, the pink bathroom) are strong enough to stand alone as an introduction. They'll make great scenes as the story goes on. It's all inventive and fun.

I can just see Tony: "I have to find the create the secret magic portal to find the stones of power by arrainging my sister's pink undies into a hex sign"
Or: "The evil drug lords have taken over the pizza shop and are supplying the world with disease-ridden, impotency-inducing smack. I know the key is in the salami."
Or: If I could just get five minutes alone with Natasha, I wouldn't be the only virgin boy in the class and my zits would clear up."

What is the story? What I think you have described here is Tony's imaginary retelling of his situation. He's the only boy in a house of girls. His parents are strict (when he's thirty he can't use that excuse for his behaviour anymore). The bathroom is less than manly. None of these are the story.

You have to somehow weave the story in between the reasons for Tony to run away bacause his house in infested with girls.

Bernita said...

I'd skip the first sentence and incorporate his name and age in the second and use it as your beginning.
EE has a point about the age of the piggy sister.
Other than that, I think it's a great beginning to whatever adventures ensue after he reached reason # 100.

Lightsmith said...

This is middle grade, right?

The satirical quality of this reminds me a bit of Roald Dahl. I imagine that kids will like many of the details, such as the food-throwing and the girl cooties. Also, the overall feeling of being put-upon should resonate with most kids.

My main issue with much of this is that it doesn't quite make sense...

The first sentence is odd. Okay, he lives in a putrid house - that's fine, if not much of a hook. But adding that he's well aware of it seems strange and redundant to me. Of course he's well aware of it. Why wouldn't he be? Maybe if he were 4 years old that description might make sense, but any 12 year old knows whether his family's house is a pig sty.

In the second paragraph, I don't understand why Theresa is throwing food at him if she doesn't want him to have any food. ("You can't have any food. Now stand still while I throw some food in your general direction.") It would make more sense if the scene showed her taking food away from him, or maybe throwing non-edible items at him, like a shoe, or the family cat. Although I suppose the family cat is edible, technically speaking.

In the 3rd paragraph, why does Tony need to perform a quick-thinking calculation to figure out that starvation is a bad thing? It's not exactly a complex string of logical arguments. It basically boils down to: A. I'm starving. B. And that's bad. I like the detail about Tony's quick-thinking brain, but it should be applied to a more appropriate situation.

In paragraph four it's not clear exactly what he's pouring shampoo on, since the cooties would have spread to every possible surface in the bathroom, according to the dynamics of cootie contamination. I think you're referring to the underwear and such, but those are not themselves cooties (cooties being small bugs or germs); they might be described as cootie-infested, though.

Good luck.

writtenwyrdd said...

This has good bones, but still needs work. I think you make the situation too bizarre and over the top. Also, the 17-year-old age is too old for the cheese and tomato throwing, as EE notes.

The use of "putrid" in teh first sentence doesn't work for me.

Dave Fragments said...

"I Love You Beth Cooper" by Larry Doyle has this frenetic wildness to it. It's a teen book and it's sitting on my shelf because of a few too many ocurrences of the "F" word. My niece doesn't want her son (12 1/2 y/o) reading language like that. (remember, I'm not the parent here. it's not my decision.)

In the book, the boy has to give his validictory address and instead of the usual teen speach, he says "I Love You Beth Cooper." It's all teen angst, dating, nervous energy, wildly bizarre slapstick and satire. The kid sweats, farts, burps and does all that stuff that early teens just giggle at adorably and he's trying hard to get a date. THat's a boy thing. Girls don't try hard to get dates.

I can see Tony's behavior as the last vestiges of "boy hates girl" phase and lots of this is in his imagination. Hell, growing up with four older sisters has to leave "issues"...

Chris Eldin said...

These are awesome comments! Thanks!

Sarah--that's actually how it goes. :-)

Paul, I included a 'cats having sex' scene in my first MG, and it caused enough of a stir that I deleted it. I'll save the porn scenes for when I'm more established.

Bill, I like 'bony Tony!' May I use that?

Anon, that's funny when you're drunk. ;-)


EE: Thanks!! I need to develop the sisters better, even though they're only in the first and last chapters. That's a great catch, thank you!

Dave: You're so nice because you always make the effort to comment on everyone's openings. It's time consuming, but definitely appreciated. But for this piece, the 'overdone' bit is the voice of it. It's meant to be in the neighborhood of Roald Dahl.

Thank you Bernita and Wwrttnwrd. I'm going to put the first sentence in parenths, and come back to it in a month.

Bill, thank you! I am trying for the 'Dahl' satire in this one. I'm glad someone noticed it! Your comments are spot on. I appreciate them, especially about the second paragraph. Thanks!

The story is basically this:
Poor Tony thinks life is bad. So when he meets a magical mouse who grants his every wish, the first thing he wishes for is to get the heck out of town.
Tony gets slammed around the universe quite a lot before he wishes himself back home.

The magical mouse is named Wink. He's named Wink because his mutton chops are so fat that his eyes are squished together in a permanent wink. And he's a bit evil. He lives in a library, so he's also erudite.


Robin S. said...

Hi CL,

I think this is funny - I assume the humor and sarcasm are there for a reason. I don't know much at all about kids writing - or, writing for kids, I guess I should say- but my girls, who inheristed a double dose of smartass themselves, would've enjoyed the tone and the put-upon-ness of this.

Love this line: "Tony was the baby ‘T.’"

I do think the food throwing maybe works better for a younger sister, but I don't have a sister, so I'm not sure.

I love that Tony has catalogued his reasons. 'The world is against him' suits that age range.

McKoala said...

Love the situations, the nicknames, baby T, piggy T and the counting of the reasons. I'm expecting something to happen at 100.

The first para, though, was telling and, as you know, I strongly prefer to be shown. That first line might work for me - I happen to like the word putrid - but after that I'd rather see why it's putrid than be told about the structure of his family. Or... 'Putrid, putrid, putrid.' The word ran through Tony's head as he picked his way through the rubbish-strewn kitchen, trying not to touch...(whatever his yucky sisters and parents have left lying around).

I also thought it was odd that Theresa said he didn't need lunch - then gave him some, however roughly.

I think you might need to strengthen the contagious sisters message slightly as I didn't really see a messy bathroom as threatening his survival. And I also wasn't sure where the girl cooties were meant to be - everywhere, I suppose! That's a lot of shampoo. And it's probably pink shampoo.

On re-reading, I think that one of the issues I'm having is POV. I'm expecting it to be Tony, and it often seems to be Tony, but sometimes you throw us out again and tell us things, e.g.: 'Lazy Tiffany’s mess gave Tony reason number 98 for packing it up and getting the heck out of town.' If you rendered this as you did his earlier thought, e.g.: 'Reason for running away number 97: Ugly-T's trail of grubby pinkness' - that would work better for me.

WouldBe said...

I liked it quite a bit. It had the feel of many advanced-learner picture books I've heard (yes, heard) lately. They frequently deal with sibling rivalry in a fun way. Perhaps you had an older group in mind, but you might consider this market. You might want to start at a lower number of sibling evils to give yourself more working room. It can't go to 123; it must stop at 100 :)

Those who thought Tony was over-wrought probably form a set of people not having four older sisters.

Robin S. said...

"The magical mouse is named Wink. He's named Wink because his mutton chops are so fat that his eyes are squished together in a permanent wink. And he's a bit evil. He lives in a library, so he's also erudite.."

Ha! EE, immortalized as a mouse. Love it!

Also forgot to say earlier- I really like the "girl cooties" wording.

Anonymous said...

Hi Church Lady,

I feel like I'm coming late to the dance, but I wanted to throw in my 2 cents anyway.

I really like the tone and the action here. It fits well if you're targeting the younger boys - say 5-9 yrs old. I think they can relate to your imagery and Tony's feelings.

You set up one conflict - the issue of having these older sisters - very well. Not sure if the parents also need to be disgusting, maybe just not very involved. If Tony is stuck being raised by the sisters, that might add more depth to his desperation.

You might want to consider a partial rewrite in first person and see how it sounds. I think Tony's voice could be really great.

The first paragraph works for me without the first sentence. I think it's a good opening, but maybe starting with action would grab these kids even more.

Good luck! I would read on!


Amanda said...

I thought this was super cute!!!

I luvvv the idea of a magic mouse named Wink!! Its TOO adorable!!

Tony reminds me of my little brother and I suppose that makes me Theresa the fat sister. :(

Except in real life HE'S the bad one and I"M the hero of the story LOL!!!


Chris Eldin said...

Thanks Amanda and Sara! I really appreciate your nice thoughts!