Friday, March 27, 2009

New Beginning 621 (Chapter Opening)

Dear Stupid Tina, I am running away because you’re stupid. Signed, Tony. He thought back to the disgusting events of the previous night.

“Oh, Tony. You sweet little thing, you! Give your pretty sister a kiss.” She had pinched his cheek and moved in for the kill.

“Gross! Get away from me!” Tony had thrown his hands in front of his face, blocking her advance. He’d spent a lifetime trying to stay out of her way. He wished she’d get a boyfriend. One who might appreciate fat lips and horse teeth. But now, he didn’t care. He’d never have to be kissed by a girl ever again.

Dear Stinky Tiffany, I am running away because you stink. Signed, Tony. Tiffany always left her pink socks and pink hair ribbons on the bathroom floor. Just this morning Tony had to tiptoe around her (ew!) underwear to brush his teeth. Not anymore. Tony didn’t plan on brushing his teeth for a long time.

He gathered up his favorite things and shoved them into his suitcase. Without once looking back, Tony tiptoed down the stairs, taking a big stride to miss the third one down, the one that creaked, and he grabbed his coat. He put the letters to Tina and to Tiffany on the hall table, took the keys to the BMW and left.

He should have known it would be a mistake to marry his sister's best friend.

Opening: Chris Eldin.....Continuation: anon.


Evil Editor said...

Unchosen continuations:

Dear Dead Tilly, the meat cleaver in the head is to make you dead. Signed, Tony.

Yes, surely the mafia would accept him now.


Tony sealed the letter and ran downstairs. He was surprised to see, on the entrance stand, two letters addressed to him, in all too familiar handwriting. Weird. He tore the first one open.

Dear Tony, We don't think we like you anymore. Nobody likes you. Leave us alone. LEAVE EVERYONE ALONE! Signed, Tiffany.

Tony stared at himself in the mirror. He looked at his fat lips and dirty, buck teeth; he looked at the pink ribbons threaded through his hair.

He opened the second letter.

Dear Tony, I put the gun in the closet for you. Don't do anything silly, will you? Signed, Tina.


Five years later, shivering as he stood under the streetlight, tugging uncomfortably at his skin-tight short-shorts, it occurred to Tony that there were worse things than being kissed by a girl.


* * *
"Whoa, whoa, whoa. This book makes fun of the mentally challenged; it alludes to some kind of incestuous sexual relationship; it encourages body dysmorphic syndrome, and the underage underwear skates pretty close to the line. Okay, kids can be crude, I get that. But to condone kids not brushing their teeth? Not in this library, not on my watch, no sir, no way!"


Crouched at the top of the stairs, Tina watched her chubby little brother tiptoe to the front door, unlock it, and slip through, clutching his Power Rangers backpack. Her nails clicked on the stairs as she loped after him, her long tongue lolling between teeth sharp and white, no longer horselike. The change that had come on her with the full moon intoxicated her as she moved in for the kill. Muzzle deep in Tony's entrails a few minutes later, she knew truly what a sweet thing he was.


Chris Eldin said...

LOL @ continuation!!!

Just wanted to clarify that this is a chapter opening...

Many thanks!

BuffySquirrel said...

I'm guessing I'm not the market for this one, which is probably as well, as right now I'm hoping Tony runs away and bad things happen to him.

Which is probably not the reaction you're looking for! lol

Evil Editor said...

Unless this is a picture book and you're showing the actual letters Tony's writing, I think you need to set the scene a bit. Tony sat down at his desk, got out a pencil and paper, and started writing. Dear Tina...

Starting with the text of the letter isn't working for me. Also, the words Dear Stupid Tina indicate that this is the text of the letter, but the word "Signed" wouldn't be in the text. It would be "Yours truly" or something.

V. Dunn said...

Especially since this is a chapter opening, I think you should show the kissing trauma, instead of having Tony just remember it.

Also, you should show him tiptoeing around Tiffany's underwear and having to step over her pink socks and hair ribbons to get into the bathroom. Don't just tell us that these are things she does. By the time we're several chapters into the book, this should already have been established as a character trait.

You shouldn't have to tell us why Tony's running away. It should be obvious to the reader that it's the only only choice he'd ever make. It should feel inevitable.

batgirl said...

I liked the parallel letters - but on the first reading I thought they were to the same sister, because of the T-T-T names.

The kissing scene read a little 'off' to me - it sounded more like the behaviour of an doting aunt than a sister. I suppose Tina could be mockingly calling him sweet, but it was hard to tell without context.

Evil Editor said...

I see no reason to end a chapter in the middle of a scene and start the next chapter in the middle of the same scene, unless we're at a suspenseful cliffhanger. What he's going to write on that piece of paper doesn't qualify.

Dave F. said...

I'm with some of the other reviewers. I don't like that he is describing and reacting to what happened the night before. I think you should be relating the story of the trauma he went through the night before.

Yeah, I know. It's just a kiss from his sister. I am guessing that it was done in front of his and her friends and the girls giggled and the boys smirked and he turned red.

Puberty Angst and Dating Distress is always good stuff.

freddie said...

I'm with batgirl.

I find it hard to believe any sister would ask her brother for a kiss unless she's old enough to be his aunt - and possibly not even then. But every relationship is different.

It's good writing, though.

Chris Eldin said...

Thanks for the feedback everybody!

Anonymous said...

I agree. I have a particular life view based on my own narrow set of experiences, and anything that doesn't fit into that is wrong. So, if you're serious about getting published, you should rewrite your opening to fit neatly into my version of reality.

batgirl said...

The thing is, anon, that as readers we all bring our life-experiences to the page (so does the author). Even agents do that. Barring one of the minions having godlike insight untainted by human bias, all crits offered here will have some degree of personal taste affecting them. The same thing happens in writing workshops.
It's up to the writer receiving those crits to sift out what's useful to him/her. Sometimes it's even the personal tics and twitches that help, oddly enough. Sometimes those biases are utterly irrelevant. Sometimes even the godlike insights are irrelevant.

In a formal workshop setting, like OWW, critiquers are required to always say 'it seems to me', and 'my feeling is' and never state their opinions as fact. Here I think things are a bit more relaxed, and it's understood that it's all opinion, and except for EE, nobody is speaking ex cathedra.

BuffySquirrel said...

Ah, anon, why don't you at least get a screen name so we can distinguish you from the other anons?

Robin S. said...

I (obviously) don't know who your are anon 11:01 pm, but please know, I'm seriously a big fan.

Kinda makes me want to begin commenting as an anon, actually. Or change my name and photo shop some woman's face. Hmmmm.

Anwyway, here's the thing about this opening, chapter or not - I think it's supposed to be over the top with the boy angst thing.For me,it's darling precisely because of that.

And as for kissing little brothers, I used to hold mine down and kiss all over his head, just to piss him off. It happens. but even if it didn't, it wouldn't matter, because that's not the point, in my opinion.

McKoala said...

Big sisters are so gross.

No reason why this shouldn't be done as letters. He's running away. These are his last words to them, and they're what boys say (or wish they could say) to big sisters. Face to face - no way. You might get more ucky kisses or a flick from a pink ribbon. Heaven forbid. This works for me.

McKoala said...

I'm struggling with this eye-infection computer ban, as you can see...!

freddie said...

Christ, you're reading an awful lot into these comments, anon.

Chris Eldin said...

LOL @ Anon 11:01!

I appreciate everyone's feedback--due to the scene, they really do have to be letters. Plus, there are two more letters following...
One to agents and one to editors. I threw them in to make sure the readers stay alert.

batgirl said...

In a way I agree with anon 11.01, because I've been frustrated with critiques on the same grounds. My one and only (so far) published story turns on a sister going to rescue her little brother. A crit I got early on was that it wasn't believable, that an older sister would be overjoyed to have her baby brother disappear.
I disagreed (being an older sister myself) but took it as a hint to build their relationship and the sister's character as a protective sort of child.

So, y'know, I do see anon's point, and I did snicker when I read the comment. But all crits should be read with one's own critical faculties up and running.

V. Dunn said...

I think a good writer can sell almost anything to the reader, and I also think that's why there's been a number of people here saying "show don't tell". They want to be sold.

It's not that big sisters don't kiss little brothers, it's just that we have no context for anything that's going on.

Readers are a suspicious lot. ;-)

But imagine a slightly different version of this chapter opening...


Dear Stupid Tina, I am running away because you’re stupid.

Tony pressed hard on the pen as he signed his name. He felt good. Stupid Tina. He wasn't going to miss her any of her cheek pinching, her gross slobbery kissing, or her high pitched baby-talking. She'd called him a "sweet little thing" for the last time.

Maybe now she'd finally get herself a boyfriend. Except he'd have to be a boy who'd appreciate fat lips and horse teeth.

Tony didn't care. He was never going to be kissed by another girl, ever again.

Tony looked for another piece of paper. He looked inside his desk and under his desk. There was no paper. Tony sighed. He'd just have to steal a piece of printer paper from the computer downstairs.

On his way back to his room with the printer paper, Tony stopped in at the bathroom. Tiffany's flowery hair stuff was all over the sink, stinking up the bathroom. But that wasn't the worst part. Before Tony could use the toilet, he had to use Tina's tweezers to move Tiffany's awful pink underwear off the back of the toilet. Gross!

Tony couldn't get out of there fast enough.

Dear Stinky Tiffany, I am running away because you stink.

Tony almost put his pen through the paper when he signed his name on the second note. Every single morning Tony had to deal with all of Tiffany's stupid stuff in the bathroom, just to brush his teeth. Well, not any more. Tony didn’t plan on brushing his teeth for a long time.


I'm not sure I got your voice right, and obviously this is rough. But hopefully you can see how the scene is set so it's possible to visualize Tony sitting at his desk, writing. We know where he is in his house, we have a bit of an idea of what kind of house it is, and there's no flashback (flashbacks used to confuse my son as a young reader, because he always thought they were happening *right now*).

I hope this helps!

chelsea said...


I really like the letters. But I do agree that the backstory felt like it could've been shown before they were written. Of course, only you will know if that will work.

But anyway. The letters got my attention right away, and they really showcase Tony's voice. :)

freddie said...

One thing I'll say, Chris, your writing really gets a reaction out of readers. That's a good thing!