Tuesday, March 13, 2012

New Beginning 931

"I’ve had some words of my father’s rolling around in my head for a while now that I can’t seem to get out of mind. Well, maybe that’s not exactly true, ‘cause I read them in a Chinese textbook about two years ago. While I may not have learned much Chinese, I do remember this: Wo renshi yi ge piaoliang de guniang; or, I know a pretty girl. In English it doesn’t sound that special, but whenever I find myself thinking those words I can’t help but feel a little bit different. It’s not that it’s any life changing difference or self-defining; I'm not looking to put any great importance on a line I read one time. For me, I always get a little smile out of it. The truth is, I do know a pretty girl. But I keep fucking it up with all the other pretty ones I know too."

Mr. Craven took a swig from the travel mug on his desk and looked blearily at all of us.

"Well?" he snapped. "Repeat it! Wo renshi yi ge piaoliang de guniang!"

Obediently I muttered it back with the rest of the terrified class. Man, ever since the budget cuts, these community college language programs were getting weirder and weirder.

Opening: Chris.....Continuation: sarahhawthorne


Evil Editor said...

Unchosen continuation:

And then there's my mother....


Anonymous said...

Maybe an unattributed reminiscence in quotes is not the best thing to start with. Seems like we need more context to fully appreciate this.

Evil Editor said...

Sentence 1. Rolling around in my head for a while is pretty much the same as can't seem to get out of my mind, no need for both.

Sentence 2. Not clear if you're saying the words were never said by your father or that he said them and you also saw them in a textbook? Either way, it's also not clear how the fact that you read the phrase in a textbook makes the 1st sentence not exactly true.

Sentence 3. I typed Wo renshi yi ge piaoliang de guniang into Google translator and it didn't know what I was talking about. So I reversed the process and typed in I know a pretty girl and it responded with 我知道一个漂亮的女孩. I suspect your father was pulling a fast one on you; I'd find out what those words really mean before you say them to the pretty girl's father and get punched in the face.

The rest of it is repetitive rambling that you can easily cut in half.

Anonymous said...

State you are using Pinyin. Adds authenticity to the story. "Chinese" can be Mandarin, Cantonese, or local dialect as I'm sure you know. Need clarity.
Nice continuation Sarah.

AlaskaRavenclaw said...

Cut, cut, cut. At least half your words.

And the quotation marks. I'm quite worried about the quotation marks. They seem to indicate either:

1. This is the beginning of a conversation, and the whole dialogue is actually going to be composed of dueling monologues. (Happens a lot in real life, but rarely used in fiction.)


2. This is just the narrator narrating and the writer doesn't know s/he shouldn't use quotation marks.

Wilkins MacQueen said...

Wo renshi le yi ge piaoliang de guniang (I know a pretty girl) in Pinyin.

Double/triple check when using the romanized language, pronunciation and local use vary.

Using Standard or Modern Standard Putonghua characters may serve you better in this instance.

Dave Fragments said...

I know a pretty girl.

There is a real Chinese saying that a spark can burn the whole prairie. It sounds so obvious and simple and yet, in the Eastern philosophies, so devastatingly complex.

If you are going to use that type of understatement, do not say
It’s not that it’s any life changing difference or self-defining; I'm not looking to put any great importance on a line I read one time. For me, I always get a little smile out of it.
because, you are killing your own understated efforts.

AlaskaRavenclaw said...

I assumed the Chinese was correct because only a fool would offer incorrect Chinese and expect his/her readers to ever trust him/her again. Factual error = readers throwing the book across the room.

But if Google translator didn't recognize the Pinyin, then, hm.

Anyway, we're all talking about whether the Chinese is correct. So writer, that tells you two things-- the importance of getting facts right (I still assume you did), and that unless you want your readers to start out mostly thinking about whether you got your Chinese right, you might want to start somewhere else.

Evil Editor said...

I also assume the Chinese is correct, and that Google translates Chinese characters into English, but not their phonetic spelling.

none said...

In two minds, really. I find the rambling attractive, but I'd like some idea of where it's going. Pretty girls, not interesting to me :).

Chelsea Pitcher said...

I found the voice pleasant. A bit meandering, but it didn't really bother me. EE already mentioned my only complaint: that sentence two doesn't really negate sentence one.

How necessary is the mention of the textbook? I think it would flow quite nicely as: "I've had some words of my father's rolling around in my head for a while now: Wo renshi . . ." and so on. If you eliminate the contradiction in the first half of the paragraph (making a statement, then immediately saying "Well, maybe that's not exactly true") the reader is more likely to follow you through the other "nots": "It's not that it's life changing; I'm not looking to put any great importance on a line."

Just my opinion. Nice opening :)

sarahhawthorne said...

I kinda liked this. It's harder than it looks to do quasi-drunken rambling with perhaps a hint of hard boiled noir, and this does a pretty good job of keeping it interesting.

But I do hope somebody punches somebody else in the next paragraph. Because you need to get to the context but quick, buddy.

enya said...

A big, unattributed block of dialogue doesn't work for me as a story opening. I'm instantly lost, and I feel no connection to the character. How could I, not knowing who's speaking, where s/he is, WHEN s/he is, and whether or not anyone is listening?

I mean, why ask your reader to work so hard? Give us something to hold on to.